Pregnant and feeling anxious? Prenatal yoga can increase feelings of calm

Prenatal yoga can help to improve your mental wellbeing and help you feel more prepared for labor, research suggests

Pregnant woman joins online yoga class from home
(Image credit: Getty)

Whether you're pregnant for the first time or have experienced a pregnancy before, worries and anxious feelings are to be expected. However, a study has found that engaging in prenatal yoga could help to improve your mental wellbeing and make you feel better prepared for the birth.

As much as it's important to stay physically active during your pregnancy, such as pedalling on a best exercise bike when you feel up to it, it's just as important you look after your mental wellbeing too. 

Your mind might be whirring with things you still need to do before the birth or worrying about the baby. So rolling out one of the best yoga mats for some prenatal yoga is one way to help yourself feel a greater sense of calm during the pregnancy.

Research published in the BMC Childbirth and Pregnancy journal has found that prenatal yoga can lower feelings of distress as well as 'increase perceived skills' to aid the labor and birth experience.

A group of researchers noticed high rates of psychological-distress, trauma, and social complexity among younger pregnant women and sought to explore yoga as a potential form of relief for this. To conduct the research, they offered voluntary prenatal yoga sessions to a group of young pregnant women under the age of 24 years at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Australia.

From 2014 to 2015, participants had the option to attend prenatal yoga sessions consisting of 45 minutes of posture, breathing, relaxation exercises and fifteen minutes of socializing in a group chat setting with other pregnant women.

Pregnant women sitting on a yoga ball cradling her stomach

(Image credit: Getty)

After taking part in the yoga sessions, all of the participants agreed that prenatal yoga helped them feel better psychologically. This included feelings of relaxation, positive emotional responses, and physical bodily responses. 

One participant said they came out of the sessions feeling happy and relaxed while another said that the sessions: "Helped me to learn how to control myself… Sometimes I worry about little things – this helped me not to." Meanwhile, they all reported practicing yoga on their own outside of the classes.

The study also highlighted that participants felt the yoga sessions helped them feel closer to their baby, and just over half (53%) recognized the benefits for labor as the greatest upside. The practice of prenatal yoga helped to familiarize themselves with useful positions and breathing techniques for labor and helped increase feelings of calm whilst giving birth. 

The researchers noted the positive impact that the social element had on the participants. The study authors wrote, "For those who did (opt in to the voluntary sessions), it built on opportunities to prepare for labour and parental bonding, and increased confidence and social connectedness, when practising with other young women in similar situations."

Various other types of exercise can be very social activities plus, studies have found that mothers who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to have healthier, more active babies. Why not get yourself fitted with a pair of best shoes for walking from our guide and get out for a stroll with a friend or neighbor.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.