Yoga Implications During Pregnancy

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Integrated yoga practice, message therapy, and relaxation techniques during pregnancy: Effects on birth outcomes, maternal depression, anxiety, and physical distress.

Over the course of evolution, species have developed methods and procedures to increase the survival rate of their offspring. For millennia, humans have been refining childbearing techniques to reduce cases of infant mortality, deformity, and other health related issues. Twentieth century advancements in medicine and technology have increased the proficiency of prenatal care. However, over the last couple decades, the United States has not seen a rise in healthy birth outcomes (Beddoe, & Lee, 2008). Research has shown that maternal stress and anxiety during pregnancy can increase the chances of adverse birth outcomes, such as for spontaneous abortion, preterm labor, malformations, and asymmetric growth retardation (Beddoe & Lee 2008, Gurung et al, 2005; Glynn et al, 2008; & Narendran et al, 2005). Similar investigations are showing that prenatal depression can increase levels of stress hormones, which can filter their way into the fetus causing harm (Field et al, 2004). As a result, studies are striving to pinpoint the various emotional, social, and interpersonal factors that contribute to anxiety and depression during pregnancy (Field et al., 2004, Glynn et al., 2008). Additional research is gathering information on some non-traditional methods that can alleviate symptoms of prenatal stress and depression. Specifically, studies analyzing the effects of yoga, massage therapy, and relaxation techniques have shown that these practices can increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, while reducing levels of perceived anxiety, pregnancy related pains, as well as hormones like cortisol, and norepineprhine (Field et al., 2004; Beddoe et al., 2009; Sun et al., 2010; Rakhshani et al., 2010, & Songporn et al., 2008). Supplementary research has also shown that the integration of a yoga practice during pregnancy can promote full-length gestation periods and influence higher neo-natal birth weight (Narendran et al, 2005). Concerning the effects of yoga, massage therapy, and relaxation during pregnancy, complementary research suggests that these methods can be applied as a substitute to conventional medicine, maximizing healthy birth outcomes, and visibly reducing levels of prenatal anxiety and physical pain. An understanding of the agents that cause prenatal stress and access to practices that reduce related symptoms, like yoga and massage therapy, can permit women to integrate an efficient system of stress reduction while creating a rich and optimum environment for their developing fetus.

Conceptualizations of stress during pregnancy vary in research literature but most assessments attribute anxiety to experiences like fear of labor, financial or social problems, divorce, illness, and life-threatening events (Gurung et al, 2005, Narendran et al, 2005). Empirical research has been conducted to extend our knowledge of the psychological and social factors that exacerbate maternal distress. For example, Gurung et al, 2005, constructed a study to critically examine personal, interpersonal, and contextual factors that have the capacity to enhance or reduce perceptions of prenatal anxiety (Gurung et al, 2005). A multiethnic (European American, African American, and Latino) community sample of 453 participants that satisfied criterion were selected to undergo structured interviews at three intervals during pregnancy (18–20 weeks, 28–30 weeks, and 35-36 weeks). The study measured attitudes towards pregnancy, income, life events, mastery, and social support as predictors of anxiety (Gurung et al, 2005). Three specific variables were analyzed critically and are defined as follows: • mastery: the extent to which one regards one’s life chances as being under one’s own control in contrast to being fatalistically ruled. • attitude toward...
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