Prenatal VINYASA Yoga

Why Prenatal VINYASA Yoga? 

Linking Movement and Breath Vinyasa yoga is the linking of body movement and breath, and more than that, it is the continuous movement of energy through the body. The movement of the body and the breath are one, connected, continuously flowing and synchronized. When a practitioner learns to link their breath and movement they create an energy which powerfully connects them to their own being. Bringing this experience of connectedness to pregnant women in a physical, tangible way is the intention of Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga. We tend to hold our breath when we experience pain or fear..

This breath and movement connection becomes pivotal in childbirth where the tendency in intense fear is to freeze, hold the breath, tense up all of the muscles, even those that aren’t working, and stop any forward movement. Vinyasa yoga teaches that even when muscles are challenged, there can be movement and breath, and when a woman can connect her breath and body in labor it is an empowering and beautiful thing. Women can release fear and pain with this movement and breath connection. They can help their bodies and babies move forward toward birth by allowing and encouraging that connection of movement and breath. Learning vinyasa yoga in pregnancy can give women the ability to feel the continuous energy movement in labor and embrace that movement, linking it to her breath and allowing it to grow, creating an ecstatic, empowering birth experience.

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Breath = Life

During pregnancy women experience dramatic physical, emotional, and mental transformations in which they have an amazing opportunity to, for a short time, connect with another human being in an incredibly intimate way. This life inside them is continually growing and changing. The movement of the woman’s breath is enabling, encouraging and creating that growth, feeding the life inside her. The breath is the most important aspect in the creation of another human being.

Vinyasa yoga teaches women to allow the breath to be the motivation in their movement…. to synchronize their movements and their breath and in doing so allow this life giving energy to move throughout their bodies and through their baby. The movement is continuous, reminding her that even as her muscles are being challenged, she can feel her own strength growing and she can keep her breath and energy moving through her body, releasing the parts of her body that are not working and allowing them to relax. When practicing this style of yoga we are reminded that even when there is stillness in the body there is also movement, this movement connects our bodies and our spirits and our minds. In my work as a doula and a prenatal yoga instructor over the last 10 years, 400 births, and thousands of prenatal yoga students, I have noticed a trend.

Many women who regularly practice prenatal yoga, have faster and less painful birth experiences.

Of course there have been many exceptions and circumstances that increase length and intensity of labor, but the correlation is too great to ignore or write off as just coincidence. I was thrilled when a study from Thailand was released confirming my theory. Here is a summary of the findings of the Thailand Study: This study examined the effects of a yoga program during pregnancy, on maternal comfort, labor pain, and birth outcomes. A randomized trial was conducted using 74-primigravid Thai women who were equally divided into two groups (experimental and control). The yoga program involved six, 1-h sessions at prescribed weeks of gestation. A variety of instruments were used to assess maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. The experimental group was found to have higher levels of maternal comfort during labor and 2 h post-labor, and experienced less subject evaluated labor pain than the control group. In each group, pain increased and maternal comfort decreased as labor progressed. No differences were found, between the groups, regarding pethidine usage, labor augmentation or newborn Apgar scores at 1 and 5 min. The experimental group was found to have a shorter duration of the first stage of labor, as well as the total time of labor.

I believe there are several reasons for the outcomes observed in Thailand. 

 

  1. The focus and connection with the breath allows a woman to tap into the rhythm of their bodies and work with them instead of fighting them. 

 

  1. Yoga can increase lung capacity allowing the woman to take deeper, longer breaths, which bring oxygen to the baby and mom, making contractions feel shorter and more manageable. A woman in a yoga class is encouraged not to hold her breath and tense up but to breathe deeply and right into the tension. When a woman is tense the contractions can feel much more intense.

 

  1. Women who do prenatal yoga tend to have more stamina (especially when practicing styles such as Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga which builds strength and flexibility while staying focused on the breath and on releasing tension); therefore they can go a longer time without pain medication. Typically getting pain medication slows down labor. 

 

  1. Prenatal yoga releases endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, which she becomes accustomed to feeling while practicing yoga. These same hormones are released in labor and are much more identifiable to women who have been practicing yoga. 

 

  1. Practicing a relaxation at the end of class helps women to get familiar with what their bodies feel like when they are comfortable and free of tension. It also gives them a practice of staying in the moment and focused. The practice of prenatal yoga provides women with many physical and mental advantages when it comes time for them to give birth. My own experience has paralleled the Thailand study, which has concluded that in many circumstances, women who regularly practice prenatal yoga have More comfort during Pregnancy, Shorter and More Manageable Births, Less Medical Interventions, and Speedier Postpartum Recoveries.

3 Trimesters of the changing body of a pregnant woman 

 

Pregnancy is estimated to last approximately 280 days from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual cycle to the EDD or estimated due date; this is approximately 40 weeks. It is considered normal to deliver her baby anywhere between 37-42 weeks. At 37 weeks the baby is “term” which means that baby is fully developed (the lungs being the final organ to mature), 40 weeks is considered “full term” which means the baby has fat stores as well as fully developed organs etc. It is important to note that many first time pregnant women will go into labor up to two weeks after their EDD. Pregnancy is broken up into 3 trimesters, each presents it’s own set of rewards and challenges and each trimester brings a woman closer to her world changing forever as she prepares her body, mind and spirit for motherhood. 

 

First Trimester 

 

The first trimester of pregnancy is the time from conception to the thirteenth week, or the first 3 months. 15-20% of all known pregnancies end in miscarriage. 80% of those miscarriages happen in the first trimester. Tests Women will receive the following prenatal tests in the first trimester. Most of them are non invasive and require no special precautions when it comes to activity. Women are considered “high risk” when they are 35 years old or older and are encouraged to do more testing. 

 

  1. Blood tests: blood type screening for Rh compatibility, anemia, Rubella, Hepatitis B & C, Syphilis, HIV, Glucose, Cystic Fibrosis carrier testing, TRI 21, TRI 18 & 13 

 

  1. Urine Tests: tests protein and sugar levels 

 

  1. Swab: STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) 

 

  1. Ultrasound, nuchal translucency screening to detect signs of trisomy 21 & 18, viability of pregnancy, and number of fetuses 

 

  1. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS): Collection of placental cells at the insertion point on the uterine wall. Done at 10-13 weeks. Detection of chromosomal and genetic disorders like Down Syndrome (chromosomal) and Cystic Fibrosis (genetic). 1 in 100 women miscarry after this test. It is important that women getting a CVS refrain from Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga and any other exercise for 72 hours (some doctors say 24 hours) AND until cleared to return to exercise from her doctor. 

 

Changing body 

In the first trimester a woman might feel or notice:

 

  1. Moderate to extreme fatigue 
  2. Nausea or “morning sickness” varying in intensity from queasy feeling to vomiting 
  3. Bloated feeling caused by higher progesterone and lower peristalsis (not wanting a tight waistband) 
  4. Breast tenderness and increased size (also nipples can start to be more pronounced) 
  5. Frequent urination caused by higher HCG irritating the bladder 
  6. Craving certain foods or loss of appetite 
  7. Constipation caused by higher progesterone 
  8. Menstrual cessation (some spotting can be normal, but seek care provider to get checked) 9. Shortness of breath 
  9. Increased sensitivity to smells can cause nausea and vomiting 

Second Trimester 

The second trimester of pregnancy is the time from 14-27 weeks, or the second 3 months. Tests Women will receive the following prenatal tests in the second trimester: 

  1. Ultrasound: (NOTE, second trimester ultrasounds are less accurate in determining due dates) 
  2. Amniocentesis (optional test): Using a needle a small amount of amniotic fluid is extracted and tested. Amnio tests for everything that CVS tests for but also includes neural tube defects. 1 in 200 women miscarry after this test. It is important that women getting an Amnio refrain from Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga and any other exercise for 72 hours AND until cleared to return to exercise from her doctor. 
  3. Blood tests at 15-20 weeks to detect diseases or chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and neural tube defects called either the triple or quad screening: Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), Estriol, hCG, Inhibin A (this is only in the quad screening) 

Changing body In the second trimester a woman might feel or notice: 

  1. Reduction in fatigue 
  2. Reduction in nausea or “morning sickness” varying in intensity from queasy feeling to vomiting (in some cases this can last through the second trimester and even through the third)
  3. Abdominal swelling 
  4. Skin changes that can occur: • Dark line from the navel to the pubic bone • Brown patches on face • Patches of skin irritation or rashes • Areolas darken Stretch marks can sometimes present in the second trimester 
  5. Ligament pain due to the stretching of the uterus. Can be sharp or lingering, and can occur after sitting for long periods of time then standing up.
  6. Heartburn can be present on and off
  7. Woman might begin to feel movement of baby if she hasn’t already. Butterfly flutters (quickening)
  8. She might begin to get Braxton-Hicks contractions as early as 5 months 
  9. Certain days she might experience extreme fatigue possibly due to the baby going through growth spurts 

Third Trimester The third trimester of pregnancy is the time from 28-40 (42) weeks, or the third 3 months. Tests Women will receive the following prenatal tests in the second trimester: 

 

  1. All women are given a vaginal and rectal swab to check for GBS or group B streptococcus. Test is done at 37 weeks and is positive in 25-30% of women tested. It is done late in pregnancy because it comes and goes without symptoms. It is treated with antibiotics in labor because, while it is not harmful to the woman in most cases, it can be transmitted to the baby during birth and cause problems to the baby. This test is considered valid for 5 weeks and can be repeated. Changing body In the third trimester a woman might feel or notice: 1. Increase frequency of urination, as baby shifts bladder is compressed. This often means she is up multiple times during the night.
  2. Certain days she might experience extreme fatigue possibly due to the baby going through growth spurts and sleep disruption.
  3. Able to eat less at one time due to stomach compression.
  4. Increase in heartburn 
  5. Contractions/Braxton Hicks 
  6. Navel might “pop out” 
  7. Less room for lungs to expand therefore causing shortness of breath 
  8. Breasts continue to swell occasionally leaking colostrum (yellowish pre-milk substance) 
  9. More ligament stretching and tightening 
  10. Late in pregnancy there can be pressure on the bottom of the pelvis 11. Feet, hands, ankles, and wrists might begin to swell, referred to as Edema.

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