Yoga During & After Pregnancy Benefits Mom & Baby, Research Shows

Yoga During & After Pregnancy Benefits Mom & Baby, Research Shows

Prenatal Postpartum Yoga

The number of Americans practicing yoga is at an all time high. In a recent national health survey “approximately 21 million Americans were noted to practice yoga during the past year” 1. The reasons people cited for participating in yoga were increasing energy, enhancing immune function, and health and disease prevention.1

Trend or Underlying Truth?

So is this increased popularity of yoga just a fad or is there some truth to be found in why so many people are starting to appreciate this ancient form of movement and mind-body connection?  To determine scientific backing and validity, yoga research has significantly increased since 2000 and has surged since 2007, to include a significant number of randomized controlled trials 1.

Popularity of Prenatal Yoga

As more pregnant women in the U.S. continue to question the highly interventional, over-medicalized, technocratic model of obstetrics care, more women are turning to more whole-person focused care like yoga for self-care before, during, and after pregnancy.

Safety of Prenatal Yoga

Trending with the popularity of prenatal yoga is a focus on evaluating safety for the mother and the fetus. In one study, the monitoring of maternal and fetal heart rates showed no change in pregnant women’s heart rate or temperature or fetal heart rate and there were no falls or injuries. None of the participants reported fetal movement changes, contractions, or vaginal bleeding, thus ensuring the safety of prenatal yoga even as late as 38 weeks gestation. 2.

Lower Stress, Anxiety, and Depression During Pregnancy

The beneficial effects of yoga, while many mothers over the centuries have likely well appreciated, are now starting to emerge in science. Data reports in pregnancy show lower incidence of prenatal disorders 3, lower levels of pain and stress for mom 3, 4, lower sleep disturbances 7, higher relationship scores 3, greater gestational age offspring 3, 4, and reduced anxiety and depression 5, 6, 7. Even a single session of yoga has been noted to decrease state anxiety as well as cortisol levels in depressed pregnant women 8Yoga has even shown to be a more effective exercise than walking or standard prenatal exercises in terms of fetal growth measures 9.

Reaping Benefits During Postpartum Too

One recent study focused on mindfulness based cognitive therapies for perinatal depression (MBCT-PD) and incorporated sitting meditation, yoga practice, and breath focused meditation. Findings support “MBCT-PD as a viable non-pharmacological approach to preventing depressive relapse and recurrence among pregnant women with histories of depression” 10. Such results extended through 6 months postpartum. 10 Additional studies confirm clinically significant decreases in postpartum depression and anxiety as well 11, 12.

Future Path

While more research is needed to further and deeper explore effects of yoga on mother and baby during and after pregnancy, current research has already started to show yoga’s beneficial effects. The path for yoga to become a widespread best-care practice in prenatal and postpartum care may not be far off.

About the Author

Dr. Ginger Garner PT, DPT, ATC

Ginger is a passionate, unapologetic advocate of improving access to healthcare, mother to 3 sons & a 20+ year veteran in Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine in women’s health physical therapy & athletic training. She is the author of Medical Therapeutic Yoga, founder of ProYogaTherapy Institute and most recently uprooted to Greensboro, NC with her family after 21 years of beach living, where they are wildly joyous about their new hometown.

This and all blog posts related to yoga and/or physical therapy on www.gingergarner.com are not a substitute for medical advice and are not a prescription or program for individualized physical therapy. You must seek the advice of your health care provider and, only after a thorough physical examination and clearance, participate in any movement or exercise program. 


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  2. R.L. Polis, D. Gussman, Y.H. Kuo, Yoga in pregnancy: an examination and fetal responses to 26 yoga postures, Obstet. Gynecol. 126 (2015) 1237-1241.
  3. Q. Jiang, Z. Wu, L. Zhou, J. Dunlop, P. Chen, Effects of yoga intervention during pregnancy: a review for current status, Am. J. Perinatol. 32 (2015) 503-514.
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