Yoga is a great way to stay active and look after your wellbeing during and after pregnancy. There are some brilliant tutorials you can access online, just make sure they are specialised for pregnancy. The Yoga Midwife takes us through some simple poses to get you started.
Rebecca, a.k.a @theyogamidwife, is an experienced and practising midwife and yoga teacher, who is expecting her own baby this summer! She shares her pregnancy journey, along with tips and pregnancy information in her blog posts. On this page, Rebecca has given us an intro into some simple poses you can try at home. These particularly focus on easing pregnancy discomforts, building strength and confidence, as well as enhancing relaxation.
A study, funded by Tommy’s, showed that yoga can reduce antenatal stress hormone levels and anxiety. By combining breathing exercises, mindfulness techniques and physical postures, just one session of yoga was found to reduce self-reported anxiety by a third! And stress hormone levels by 14%! Unlike some other complementary therapies that have been tested in pregnant women, the effects of yoga were found to last long after the activity was completed. Not only that but yoga has long been known to help women stay calm in pregnancy and labour. It helps to improve sleep, and the breathing techniques you use in yoga can help you prepare for giving birth, to breathe steadily through your contractions.
Studies have also identified that pregnancy yoga improves vaginal birth, decreases premature delivery, and shortens the labour duration.
Is it safe to do yoga?
Yoga that has been properly adapted for your stage of pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. If you’re new to yoga, look for a class that is specific for pregnant women. If you’ve been doing yoga for a while, it's important to seek advice from your yoga teacher or midwife, to make sure that any poses you do are safe for you and your baby. It is best to focus on improving your technique during pregnancy – rather than trying new and advanced postures.
As your bump gets bigger, your centre of gravity will shift, meaning you may lose balance more easily. So try to move slowly when practising yoga and for any postures that require greater balance, try to use support if you need it.
Styles of yoga vary, if you start practising during pregnancy, you are likely to be directed towards slower paced styles, such as Hatha. It's important to avoid heated yoga, such as Bikram, during pregnancy. You can read our guidance on exercise during pregnancy to find out more information about preventing overheating.
Yoga and your pelvic floor
Yoga poses will work with your breath, to both strengthen, stretch and relax the pelvic floor. Strengthening the pelvic floor is crucial in order to help ease your baby out during labour. It provides resistance to the head so it can turn and make its way through the pelvis, much like a key turning in a lock. It is also important to know how to relax these layers of muscle, so that your baby can pass through during birth. There are several methods of yoga breath work that help with this.
Drawing attention to your pelvic floor is essential during pregnancy, birth and beyond to make sure you are able to do pelvic floor exercises. During your pregnancy, your pelvic floor muscles will loosen due to hormonal changes in your body. This loosening, along with your growing baby pressing on your bladder, may cause you to leak urine when you cough, laugh, sneeze or exercise. Doing pelvic floor exercises will strengthen these muscles and help you control any accidents and also help you to recover faster after birth.