I’ve spent the last nine years answering phone enquiries on a daily basis for Mother Nurture Yoga. The number one question women ask me is: “When should I start Prenatal Yoga?”
When I delve a little deeper into this, what they really want to know is either:
- When is it safe to start Prenatal Yoga?
- Or when is the most beneficial time to start?
Either way, my answer is the same: You should start as soon as you feel comfortable.
To understand my answer better, it might be helpful to look at the reasons why you may not feel comfortable starting yet.
1. You’re in your first trimester and feeling tired and/or nauseous
The first trimester is often hardest because you feel extremely tired and often experience morning sickness. If that’s you, it’s probably best to wait until you feel more energetic and less nauseous. Usually, as you move towards the second trimester, this is the golden period where you’ve got a lot more energy and morning sickness improves or goes away.
2. You’re concerned about the risk of miscarriage.
The first trimester, by it’s very nature, is a little more unstable. Miscarriage is a lot more common than people realise. The Royal Women’s hospital says: “Miscarriage is very common in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Studies show that up to one in five women, who know they are pregnant, will have a miscarriage before 20 weeks. Mostly this will happen in the first 12 weeks.”
Due to the fear of miscarriage, some women feel more comfortable waiting until they’ve reached 12 weeks, had all the tests done, and got the all-clear from their care provider.
When it comes to miscarriage and physical activity though, there’s always been a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding.
Last year, Canada brought out a set of guidelines on Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy which gave a very clear statement that women should exercise throughout their entire pregnancy.
If you’re wondering why I’m not referencing Australian guidelines, most countries have similar guidelines, but these Canadian ones are the latest to be issued globally. The goal of such guidelines is to provide evidence-based recommendations to promote maternal, fetal and neonatal health. Let’s be clear – these guidelines take years to develop, and are backed by an enormous body of research. For example, in developing the 2019 Canadian Guideline for Physical Activity throughout Pregnancy*, 27,624 titles and abstracts were screen, 675 unique studies were included and recommendations were based on a subset of exercise-only 140 randomised controlled trials. So it’s worth paying attention to what they suggest 😊
What they found is that physical activity in the first trimester did NOT increase the odds of miscarriage. So although the risk of miscarriage is undisputedly higher in the first trimester, it’s not BECAUSE of doing exercise.
In fact, as long as you’re doing exercise like prenatal yoga which is safe for pregnancy, it’s actually incredibly beneficial. And the sooner you start the better.
Importantly, there was evidence suggesting that NOT engaging in physical activity from the first trimester increased the odds of pregnancy complications (ie. gestational diabetes mellitus, pre-eclampsia, gestational hypertension, excessive gestational weight gain and severity of depressive symptoms). So for the sake of both Mum and baby, if you’re feeling comfortable, you should start exercising as soon as you feel up to it.
Research aside, over the course of nearly 10 years of working with thousands of pregnant women, I’ve observed that the earlier you start attending yoga classes, the more pleasant your pregnancy experience will be.
Let me explain why.
Let’s be honest, your body is under tremendous pressure, and it’s quite normal to experience pregnancy aches and pains from the early second trimester onwards.
So if you start yoga in the late first trimester/early second trimester, you can strengthen and stretch specific parts of the body which will help PREVENT those common aches and pains. Of course, there’s a lot more benefits of doing pregnancy yoga, but being pain-free is a great starting point!
If, when, and how, to exercise is one of the many, many decisions you’ll make during your pregnancy. Like all these decisions, it’s important to make an informed decision and feel comfortable that it’s in the best interests of both yourself and your baby. I hope by sharing this research and my own observations, it will help you to make your own informed decision.
Here’s to a happy, healthy and pain-free pregnancy 😊