Pregnant yoga that benefits you and your baby comes with so many positives. What benefits you will also benefit your baby, plus yoga will just make you feel good in your changing body. From reducing stress and decreasing the chance of depression, to improving mobility and preparing you for labor, yoga is a great form of exercise for most moms-to-be.

Reduces Stress

Yoga’s stress-busting power’s no secret, and you can use it to ease stress and anxiety while pregnant, too. One study showed that women who practiced mindfulness yoga during their third trimester experienced a decrease in stress and anxiety. As a side note, the women who practiced during the second trimester also experienced less pain. Just as yoga serves you in life when you aren’t pregnant, it will continue to serve you while your baby grows inside you. Less stress is just one of those ways.

Helps to Prevent Excessive Weight Gain

Sometimes it’s easy to just sit still and wait for the due date simply because it feels like a lot of the things you want to do are too strenuous on your pregnant body. Running, for example, may not be advisable because your heart rate may get too high, or you could trip and fall. Some doctors advise against lifting heavy weights while pregnant, so if that’s something you enjoy, you may start feeling a little down about giving it up for a while.

While yoga may not be the most intense fat burner (and that’s a good thing while pregnant!), it serves a real purpose in helping you develop and keep up your strength. In addition, if yoga keeps you calm and mindful (as studies show it does), you might be less likely to eat unhealthy foods with abandon. Instead, you’ll hopefully keep reaching for those nutrient dense, good-for-you foods that are good for your baby, too.

Gestational Diabetes

Because practicing yoga during your pregnancy may lead to healthier food choices and keep a rapid weight gain at bay, it could also contribute to a lowered risk for gestational diabetes. Though most women who develop gestational diabetes can manage it with diet, complications from gestational diabetes could lead to high birth weight, pre-term birth, respiratory distress syndrome, hypoglycemia, jaundice, or type 2 diabetes when the baby is older.

Improves Mobility

If your joints get stiff during pregnancy, yoga can help you regain your mobility. Fluid gain and gaining weight—even a healthy amount–could put extra pressure on your joints and increase join pain. For example, beyond the expected ankle, knee, and hip pain, carpal tunnel is actually pretty common in pregnant women.

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Yoga helps that fluid circulate and relieves the pain and stiffness. Once that’s been alleviated, it’ll be much more tempting for you to get up and move around, which is also good for your health and the health of your baby.

Decreases Chance of Depression

Yoga can help decrease a mother’s chance of depression, and that is so beneficial for the baby—in more ways than most people realize. Studies show that a mom’s depression while pregnant can increase the child’s chances of suffering from depression later in life as well (by 1.5 times by age 18).

Along with that risk, there are others that could show up with a mother’s depression, like poor nutrition, alcohol consumption or drugs, or suicidal behavior, all of which are especially important to avoid during pregnancy.

Lowers Chance of High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia

Practicing yoga while pregnant can help prevent pregnancy-induced hypertension. High blood pressure and preeclampsia are possible complications that can pop up during pregnancy, and a healthy diet and stretching exercises can help prevent them. In case you’re not familiar with the term, preeclampsia is basically a significant increase in blood pressure while pregnant, and it could lead to a heart attack or stroke if not managed carefully. There could also be swelling and kidney problems to go along with it.

High blood pressure while pregnant could contribute to intrauterine growth restriction as well, which may result in the baby’s:

  • Low birth weight
  • Decreased oxygen levels
  • Low Apgar scores
  • Low blood sugar
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Too many red blood cells
  • Trouble maintaining body temperature

One study that looked at 79 women with a preeclampsia history and sedentary lifestyle over the course of about five years found that stretching exercises, like yoga, were more effective than walking when it came to protecting against preeclampsia.

For more information on hypertension and preeclampsia, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Improves Blood Flow

Anything that improves blood flow is good for your baby because it reduces swelling, removes toxins, and improves your immune system (infections in mothers can contribute to intrauterine growth restriction). That creates a healthier environment for your growing baby, but increased blood flow also helps more oxygen and nutrients get to the baby.

Yoga can get your heart rate up if you want it to, but usually not the way an extreme workout would, so it’s great exercise for a pregnant woman concerned with keeping her heart rate within a certain range (some doctors recommend not going beyond 140 beats per minute) for her baby’s health.

Prepares You for Labor

Yoga is just about the best training for labor you can get. It teaches you to stay in touch with your body, breathe through discomfort, stretch, and relax. It can also strengthen muscles that will be helpful when it’s time for the baby to say hello to the world.

For example, one pose a lot of people (pregnant or not) really love is Cat-Cow. It stretches out your back and feels absolutely amazing, even when you’re not pregnant. The part where your back is rounded while you’re on your hand and knees can also help move the baby into position for birth.

Baby Center has some yoga tips broken down by trimester and also offers a few of the best poses to do while pregnant.

You Learn to Slow Down and Care for Yourself So You Can Do the Same for Your Baby

When you’re in the habit of taking care of yourself with a daily (or almost-daily) yoga practice, it’s more likely to stick around after the baby’s born and into childhood. A lot of moms struggle with taking time for themselves, but in reality, that little bit of “me” time for mom that comes along with so many benefits will actually continue to be good for the baby once it’s born.

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Moms who take care of themselves are more able to take care of others, so taking time to practice yoga isn’t “losing” time; it’s almost as if it makes time expand so you can get even more done and make better decisions and connections with people. If you’re often feeling frazzled, weak, helpless, or depressed—all things that are common and understandable for new moms—the baby will pick up on it. Besides, when your baby’s a little older, how awesome will it be for him or her to look up to a strong, confident, centered mom?

Should You Stick to Prenatal Yoga, or Is Any Yoga Fine?

If you’re a yoga newbie, stick to prenatal for now and then expand your practice once the baby’s born and your health care specialist has given you the green light to start working out again. If you were practicing before you got pregnant, you can continue with almost the same yoga practice you’ve been doing (with modifications and only after the first trimester). Be sure to talk it over with your doctor or midwife first to find out what your limitations are. You may even wish to attend prenatal yoga class with a trusted instructor for help modifying your poses and the connection with other moms-to-be.

In general, what’s good for the mom is good for the baby, so listen to your body. Do what feels good and don’t push yourself to do what doesn’t. There’s no denying that there’s pregnant yoga that benefits you and your baby, so give it a try. Maybe you’ll have a very easy, blissful pregnancy because of it.