Can you continue to practice yoga when you’re pregnant?
The answer is yes! Prenatal yoga can benefit you and your unborn baby tremendously. Even if you have never done yoga before, your pregnancy can be a great time to start.
We’ll discuss the benefits of prenatal yoga, the potential risks, and some precautions to keep in mind.
What Kind of Yoga Should I Do When Pregnant?
Prenatal yoga is a type of yoga routine specifically designed for pregnant women.
The best part about prenatal yoga is that it’s designed with pregnant mothers in mind, and its benefits are all targeted toward helping you. You aren’t limited to prenatal yoga alone, although it is highly recommended and includes the safest stretches for you during pregnancy.
Prenatal yoga focuses on avoiding dangerous positions like lying flat on your back or any position that can interrupt blood flow to your baby. Yoga is a tremendous asset to add to your pregnancy routine. I highly recommend it to all of my patients.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
Prenatal yoga helps keep you happy and healthy as you progress on your journey to parenthood (1). This type of exercise is probably the most beneficial for you and your baby and provides the least negative impact.
Benefits of Yoga When Pregnant
There are numerous benefits associated with doing yoga when you are pregnant.
- Improves strength and stamina: You must have both of these to execute and hold yoga poses. Yoga will help you strengthen your hips, arms, back, and shoulders. You will need all the strength you can get for pregnancy, labor, and birth (2).
- Breathing: The three-part breath, a specific type of breathing associated with yoga, will help you tremendously during labor. This might be one of the best benefits of yoga during pregnancy. Deep breathing ensures a good oxygen supply to your baby and can help you stay calm and focused during labor (3).
- Strengthens the pelvic floor: Many prenatal yoga poses work to strengthen the pelvic floor. This can help during labor and delivery and make your pregnancy more comfortable.
- Balance: As your body changes and grows, your center of gravity shifts. Yoga relies a lot on balance, both physically and emotionally. Executing poses helps you find your balance and relax.
- Helps relieve pregnancy symptoms: A little exercise can do the body good, and a little yoga can do the body a lot of good. Yoga can relieve back pain, nausea, headaches, and fatigue.
- Relaxes your body: Yoga requires deep breathing, which can help your body relax. When your body reaches that relaxation point, you can expect to experience better sleep and digestion.
- Improve flexibility: The routine poses you will do will eventually build up your range of flexibility, making movement easier in the later stages of pregnancy, when your body feels stretched to the max.
- Helps you bond with your baby: Yoga allows you to solely focus on your baby in a way that can almost seem surreal. You will become more deeply connected and emotionally attached (4).
- Can provide you with a great support system: If you join a prenatal yoga class, you will be surrounded by many other empowering women who are taking the same pregnancy journey with you. Nothing is better than having a support network that fully understands your situation.
- Keeps you in shape: Many expectant moms can’t wait until they can get back to their pre-baby weight. Well, yoga helps get you one step closer. By partaking in yoga during your pregnancy, you can help your body stay in shape (5).
The practice of yoga alone will benefit your overall well-being. You will notice improved sleep and reduced stress and anxiety. Overall, yoga helps better prepare you for labor and delivery. Not only will you learn new ways to stay more comfortable throughout your pregnancy, but you will benefit your baby too. When it comes time for your baby to make its grand entrance, you will be thanking yoga for your increased strength, stamina, and breathing and relaxation techniques.
Risks of Yoga During Pregnancy
Like most things in pregnancy, it seems as if everything has potential risks. Yoga is no exception.
While yoga can be very beneficial for an expectant mother, it can also cause potential harm.
- Strained muscles: Certain yoga poses can cause you to strain muscles or the ligaments supporting your baby. This typically does not pose a threat to your baby but can make you extremely uncomfortable.
- Can negatively affect blood flow: Particular movements like closed twists can inhibit the amount of blood that flows to your baby (6). You should always notify your instructor that you are pregnant or take a prenatal yoga class designed for pregnant women.
- Can compress your uterus: Poses that require you to lay down on your belly can compress your uterus, which is not good for you or your baby.
- Can compress blood vessels: By lying flat on your back while pregnant, you can compress the aorta and vena cava (7).
- Can move your baby out of the birthing position: If you choose to do inversions once your baby is in the proper birthing position, there is a chance your baby will flip and possibly become breech.
- Potential falls: Some yoga poses require you to have a great deal of balance. That might be something you lack at this time, so you should avoid poses that require you to stand on one leg, or you should use reliable support when doing so.
If you have never practiced yoga, it is important you focus specifically on prenatal yoga to stay safe. Someone experienced with yoga can still partake in her regular routine but needs to include modifications.
Prenatal Yoga Safety Precautions
To ensure maximum safety, these are some precautions you can take (8):
- Try to avoid or limit yoga during the first trimester.
- Only partake in yoga with a doctor’s permission.
- If you aren’t used to yoga, make sure you start slowly.
- If you join a yoga class, make sure your instructor knows you are pregnant.
- If something makes you uncomfortable or hurts, stop.
- Avoid hot yoga.
- Stay away from poses that can cause strain or compression near your abdomen.
- If a pose is even slightly risky, modify it or choose an alternative.
- Never push your limits.
- Focus on your breathing — your baby relies on that oxygen, too.
- Avoid backward bending.
- Avoid poses that solely focus on the abdominal muscles.
- Avoid pressure on your belly.
- Don’t be afraid to say no.
The Bottom Line
Exercise benefits you and your baby. Yoga is a great way to relax, cut down on aches and pains, and help you prepare for delivery.
Yoga will help you bond with your baby, learn excellent breathing techniques that will benefit you in labor, strengthen your birthing muscles, improve your relaxation, and reduce stress levels.
There are many benefits of yoga during pregnancy — as long as you seek permission from your doctor and don’t push the limits of your pregnant body.