Yoga and Meditation Can Help Reduce Stress during Pregnancy

Stress is a well-known cause of many physical and mental ailments which is exactly the reason why pregnant women are looking for ways to reduce stress for their and their baby’s well-being. Pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable period that can become easier with yoga and meditation. Women usually adopt a healthy eating plan when they’re pregnant to support the health of their growing baby, but they also search for healthy lifestyle tips that will help them go through pregnancy as smooth as possible. This is where yoga and meditation step in as perfect stress-reducing and health-boosting practices. A lot of studies examined the benefits of the two traditional practices on pregnancy, and the results are supportive of both. Here is what science has to say about stress, yoga and meditation during pregnancy.

Stress and pregnancy

Stress is a maladaptive reaction to life’s challenges that can severely disrupt a person’s health and well-being. Excessive stress is the leading cause of a wide range of physiological and mental health problems ranging from depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, diabetes, and even cancer. It is of particular importance to manage stress during pregnancy because maternal stress is associated with negative outcomes for the fetus. Pregnancy stress can negatively impact a baby’s brain and lead to developmental and behavioral problems in later life. A study published in the International Journal of Peptides found that a rise in the stress hormone cortisol in the placenta can reduce gray matter volume in infants. One hypothesis is that stress can diminish blood flow to the uterus which can further impact a baby’s development. For all these reasons, it is important for a woman to reduce her levels of stress when she is pregnant. While following a healthy eating plan will help you and your baby stay healthy during pregnancy, stress reduction is equally important.

Yoga and meditation

Yoga and meditation are complementary mind-body practices that originated in India. Both practices are central to many spiritual endeavors in the ancient schools of Hinduism that belong to the Yoga tradition. In the West, these practices are mostly recognized for their many health benefits. Yoga practices involve a combination of physical postures called asanas, breathing techniques called pranayama, and meditation (djana). The word yoga means to “unite”, and the practice is recognized for its potential to bring about a balance in mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of one’s life. Meditation is frequently practiced alongside yoga, and it involves controlling the senses and mind through a variety of mindfulness techniques. Both practices have a wide range of benefits but can be particularly helpful in reducing stress and improving one’s general well-being.

Yoga during pregnancy

The Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a systematic review of yoga for pregnant women. The review included six trials with a total of 689 healthy participants. All studies found a wide range of benefits of yoga for both mother and baby. The studies found that the number of babies weighing over 2500 g was significantly higher in women who took prenatal yoga classes. Furthermore, the number of preterm labor was significantly lower in women who practiced yoga than in the controls. A 12-14 week yoga program also reduced the reported discomfort in the later weeks of pregnancy in the yoga group. Yoga also improved self-efficiency of women in the later stages of pregnancy and during labor. Women also reported less pain during the beginning stages of labor. Most of the studies in this review included philosophy, healthy lifestyle tips, mindfulness, and stress reduction alongside yoga postures.

Meditation

Meditation is often practiced alongside yoga to help increase self-awareness and bring about emotional and mental balance. Meditation was also studied for its effects on pregnant women and the health of their babies. A study of 64 pregnant Chinese women and 59 controls carried out at the Obstetric Unit, Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong to measure the effects of meditation on pregnancy. The scientists measured blood cortisol levels in newborns of the intervention group and the results showed a positive effect of meditation on child health. There was also a 5-month follow-up that found that babies of meditating mothers had good temperaments at this age. Several studies found that mediation decreased depression, anxiety, back pain and stress when practiced together with yoga.

A lot of women are susceptible to stress during pregnancy which can negatively impact mother and fetus health. While making a healthy eating plan is a good way to ensure optimal health during pregnancy, taking up healthy lifestyle tips that involve practices like yoga and meditation can greatly reduce stress in pregnant women. Yoga and meditation are guaranteed ways to ensure the baby and mother are healthy during all stages of pregnancy. Taking up integrated pre-natal yoga classes is a great way to go through a stress-free pregnancy and childbirth.

 

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijpep/2011/837596/
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3424788/
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