Between your aching back and your swollen feet, exercise may be low on your priority list right now. But if you're healthy and your doctor says it's safe to hit the gym, working up a sweat is an excellent way to help maintain your own good health and your baby's well-being, says Angela Ferrari, a certified nurse-midwife at Massachusetts General Hospital. Prenatal yoga can be a safe, gentle way to tone, stretch, and strengthen your body during every stage of pregnancy. Read on to learn about more big benefits of practicing yoga while you're expecting.
Alleviating Physical Discomfort Carrying a growing baby around for nine months can wreak havoc on your body. In prenatal yoga, you'll practice poses that can help relieve aches and pains, says Debra Flashenberg, a doula, Lamaze teacher, and owner and director of the Prenatal Yoga Center in New York City. Poses that open the shoulder and that open and support the wrists can help alleviate carpal tunnel syndrome, a common complaint among pregnant women. Other poses can help ease back pain and even heartburn. Yoga can also improve your balance, circulation, and flexibility, all of which can help ease discomfort as your baby grows.
Labor Preparation Being fit in general will make labor and delivery easier overall, but prenatal yoga classes are designed to help you work on specific muscle groups that will aid in the birthing process. Building up your core during your practice can help you push more efficiently. You'll also learn how to do Kegel exercises, which can help strengthen your pelvic floor for better muscle control during delivery and faster healing postpartum. And you'll work on coping techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation.
Emotional Support Having the opportunity to bond with other women who understand the ups and downs of pregnancy can do wonders for your outlook, Flashenberg says. Practicing prenatal yoga can help you form a support network that may ease postpartum blues, according to a recent study by the University of Michigan, as well as help you connect with your growing baby.
Childbirth Education Formal childbirth education classes can be overwhelming—you learn a lot in just a few short sessions. But in prenatal yoga, you'll spend more time discussing what to expect during labor, how to naturally manage labor pain, and what poses might be helpful for labor.