The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Yoga, that calming and stretching exercise practiced the world over, may be especially valuable during pregnancy. Two recent studies found that women who perform yoga have a lower risk of pregnancy-related hypertension, preterm delivery and too-small babies. Researchers in India and the United States compared pregnant women who practiced yoga one hour each day with women who walked for 30 minutes twice a day instead. Only 14 percent of moms-to-be in the yoga group delivered early compared with 29 percent of those who walked.
Yoga may increase blood flow to the fetus and limit the fetus's exposure to the mother's stress hormones, says Vivek Narendran, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and co-author of one of the studies. "The exact mechanism for improved pregnancy outcomes with the practice of yoga is unclear," he adds. "We speculate that it decreases the transmission of maternal stress to the developing fetus in multiple ways."
The women in the studies had no problems performing the yoga exercises, but Narendran notes that there are many forms of yoga and "all of them have not been studied." It's best to take a yoga class designed for pregnant women and taught by an experienced teacher.