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A weekly yoga class can help ease stress during pregnancy and reduce women’s fear of childbirth

First research of its kind found a single yoga class cut anxiety
After two months, women were less scared about giving birth
Experts call on NHS to provide free classes for pregnant women

PUBLISHED: 23:16 GMT, 30 April 2014 | UPDATED: 04:22 GMT, 1 May 2014

It is a practice loved by celebrity mothers such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Sienna Miller.

And according to a study, taking up yoga in pregnancy can ease stress – and reduce women’s fear of childbirth.

The first research of its kind found that a single yoga class cut anxiety in mothers-to-be by a third.


Their levels of stress hormones fell and after two months of classes, the women said they were less scared about giving birth. Experts have now called on the NHS to provide free classes for pregnant women.

Professor John Aplin, who specialises in reproductive biomedicine, even suggested yoga could help women cope with the pain of childbirth and reduce the number of emergency C-sections.

He added: ‘Perhaps we should be looking at providing yoga classes on the NHS.

‘It would be relatively cheap to implement, could help mothers and their children be healthier, as well as reducing the costs of longer-term healthcare.’ Yoga is popular with mothers-to-be and is often recommended by doctors and midwives, but until now no one had studied whether it is actually beneficial.


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The Manchester University researchers looked at two groups of women who were 22 weeks pregnant.

Half did a weekly yoga class for two months and the other half attended antenatal classes. The yoga sessions were adapted for pregnancy and included relaxation techniques, as well as exercises to strengthen the body and ease pain.

There were concerns that the weekly focus on childbirth in classes might actually make women more nervous. But a single yoga class cut the amount of anxiety the women felt by a third.

Stress levels after the session were even lower than when relaxing at home, according to the study published in the journal Depression and Anxiety. And many of the women credited the techniques with keeping them calm and making the birth easier.

Lead researcher Dr James Newham, who is now based at Newcastle University, said: ‘We have long believed that it works but no research has been done to back up the theory.

‘We have now gone some way to prove that it can help. It was no small effect. This has the potential to really help mothers who are feeling anxious about their pregnancy.’

Jacqui Clinton from baby charity Tommy’s, which funded the study, said: ‘We already know that pregnancy yoga can help improve physical health and strength on the run up to having a baby, and this new evidence shows it may have important benefits for women’s emotional health too.’

The NHS advises pregnant women to stay active to help cope with labour. But a Department of Health spokesman said that the decision to run free yoga classes would need to be taken by individual hospital trusts.