Yoga is widely recommended as a good exercise for pregnant women: It keeps the body limber, tones muscles and can relieve stress. But it comes with caveats, warnings that some poses can be dangerous and that all yoga should be done gently. Many women are also worried about doing yoga in the final weeks of their pregnancy.
A new study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology and described in the Harvard Health Blog, offers evidence that many yoga poses are safe until quite late in pregnancy -- including some that have previously not been recommended.
The study, led by a researcher from the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, N.J., involved 25 healthy women who were 35 to 38 weeks pregnant. Ten practiced yoga regularly, eight were familiar with yoga and seven had no yoga experience at all. In one-on-one sessions with yoga instructors, the women performed 26 yoga postures. In some cases, the women were permitted to balance themselves with the aid of chairs or a wall.
The poses included four that some experts have deemed contraindicated for pregnant women: corpse pose, happy baby pose, child's pose and downward-facing dog.
But during all 26 poses, for all the women, vital signs of both mother and baby remained normal, the women felt safe and comfortable, and none had any problems such as contractions or vaginal bleeding within the following 24 hours. (Three women reported some muscle soreness but still liked the experience.)
The Harvard article noted that most women experience anxiety during pregnancy and about 13 percent of pregnant women experience clinical depression. "This study . . . adds to the growing scientific evidence that yoga is a helpful, safe tool to reduce stress, anxiety and depression throughout pregnancy," wrote the author, Marlynn Wei.