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Yoga Reduces Stress Levels for Pregnant Women

Update Date: May 01, 2014 02:56 PM EDT

Yoga is a practice that is focused on the three-way relationship between physical health, mental well-being and spiritual being. Researchers and enthusiasts/experts have praised yoga for its ability to relieve stress and calm the mind. In a new study, researchers set out to see if pregnant women would benefit from yoga. They concluded that yoga was effective in reducing pregnant women's stress levels and their risk of anxiety or depression.

"There is a growing body of evidence that maternal antenatal anxiety may increase the risk of pre-term delivery and the likelihood of giving birth to a low birth weight child. If we can reduce these risk factors, and perhaps reduce the rate of post-natal mood disorders in mothers and negative health outcomes in their offspring, then that can only be a good thing," said Dr. James Newham, who carried out the research as a PhD student at Tommy's Maternal and Fetal Health Research Center at the University of Manchester, and is now a research associate at Newcastle University.

When women are pregnant, doctors remind them to try to lower their stress levels. Too much stress can increase risk of premature birth, low birth weight and any developmental or behavioral problems. It could also increase the woman's risk of anxiety and depression after childbirth. For this study, the researchers from Manchester and Newcastle Universities in the Untied Kingdom recruited 59 pregnant women. The women's emotional states were recorded via self-reports at the start of the study.

The researchers divided the women in many groups. One of them required the women to attend one yoga session per week for eight weeks. Another group of women received normal prenatal treatment. The researchers tracked the women's emotional states throughout the study. They found that just one session of yoga helped reduce anxiety levels by one-third and stress hormone levels by 14 percent. Similar results were collected for women who attended more than one yoga session.

"Yoga incorporates relaxation and breathing techniques with postures that can be adapted for pregnant women. Many women opt to practice yoga during their pregnancy but this is the first worldwide report on the effects of both single and multiple sessions of antenatal yoga on mood," Professor John Aplin, one of the senior investigators in Manchester, said according to Medical Xpress. "The results confirm what many who take part in yoga have suspected for a long time. There is also evidence yoga can reduce the need for pain relief during birth and the likelihood for delivery by emergency caesarean section."

The study, "Effects of Antenatal Yoga on Maternal Anxiety and Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial," was published in Depression and Anxiety.

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