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Pregnant Women and Yoga

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Healthy pregnant women who enjoy yoga may continue a modified practice even during their third trimester without adverse consequences, according to research published in the journal of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), Obstetrics & Gynecology (2015; doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001137), which featured a pregnant woman in camel pose on the cover. The study, “Yoga in Pregnancy: An Examination of Maternal and Fetal Responses to 26 Yoga Postures,” observed 25 women who were all 35–37 weeks pregnant.

Each woman participated in a one-on-one yoga session, during which researchers monitored the expectant mother’s vital signs while also monitoring the fetus’s heart rate. Twenty-four hours later, the investigators followed up to determine whether any contractions, fluid leakage, vaginal bleeding or decreased fetal movement occurred. No adverse effects were reported.

Lead study author Rachael Polis, DO, at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, said to National Public Radio, “This is preliminary information, but I think it’s exciting and reassuring to know there were no adverse changes for both mom and baby.” Downward-facing dog and happy baby were among the 26 postures that caused no problems.

Women should still check with their doctor before participating in yoga; they should forgo inversions, to reduce fall risk; and they should avoid lying prone. In December 2015, ACOG released its Committee Opinion Number 650, recommending physical activity and exercise during pregnancy, and including modified yoga and Pilates as examples of safe activities, while advising that “hot yoga” and “hot Pilates” should be avoided. The ACOG advisory noted that “yoga positions that result in decreased venous return and hypotension should be avoided as much as possible.”

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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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