A 2014 study at Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre based at the University of Manchester has found that yoga based breathing and relaxation techniques can reduce antenatal anxiety in expectant mothers and prevent the increase in symptoms of depression.
The study included 59 women who were pregnant with their first child, had never previously suffered anxiety and who were otherwise having uncomplicated pregnancies. Cortisol levels were tested prior to commencement of the study, which were combined with questionnaires in order to assess the state of the participating women. The yoga performed was the mild Hatha form of yoga, offered in class format. The yoga was modified to aid common ailments in pregnancy, such as postures to alleviate common aches and pains and to encourage ideal positioning of the baby, as well as breathing techniques that would be helpful in labour.
The results of the study found that antenatal anxiety reduced after a single session of yoga and that reduced level of anxiety remained at the conclusion of the study.
If you are currently pregnant and feeling anxious, whether it is your first pregnancy or not, please ensure you talk to your care team about it. Even if you are unable to join a class such as the one mentioned above you may be able to practice on your own or engage in other relaxing exercises such as walking in nature or meditation. Another potential contributing factor in the study mention above was the fact that the yoga was done in classes, which may have enabled a sense of support and community amongst people undergoing similar experiences. Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive minded people during this vulnerable time is essential and can have a far-reaching effect. Options include antenatal classes and mothers groups and your care team should be able to provide you with advice and information as to what is available in your area.
These days there are many groups formed on social media forums such as Facebook or Meetup and these can provide you with a sense of well needed support. Protect yourself from negative talk however, as it is common for people to share horror birth stories without thinking or to use shaming where their values and yours do not match, especially online. Provided you are not engaging in an activity that might be harming your baby, simply explain that you only want to hear positive stories during your vulnerable state and remove yourself from the conversation if necessary. Nurture yourself as your would your best friend, this is a short lived and special time in the over-all scheme of things, do your best to enjoy these days, they will be gone all too quickly!