Theses Bachelor's

Yoga as a treatment for reducing maternal stress and negative birth outcomes

Stillman, Sarah

In America today, over 15 million people practice yoga. In recent years the practice has been specialized and adapted for the pregnant body. From this, a body of research developed. Past research has focused on basic concepts of yoga, and found significant benefits for the mother. However, fewer studies have done follow-ups to look at birth outcomes and long-term treatment effects of practicing yoga. This study will investigate how to reduce maternal stress and pain, as well as negative birth outcomes in a high-risk population of mothers, by answering the question what kinds of yoga and at what point during pregnancy yoga is useful? This study will specifically target pregnant women whose fetus has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. The diagnosis is given around 14 weeks, and with it mothers experience an extraordinary amount of stress. Stress has been shown to increase the risk of premature delivery and low birth weight, which can have long-term effects on the neonate (Narendran, Nagarathna, Narendran, Gunasheela and Nagendra, 2005). Participants will take the Perceived Stress Scale and Brief Pain Inventory when entering the study. They will be randomly assigned to one of five conditions: Vinyasa yoga starting at time of diagnosis, Vinyasa yoga starting at the beginning of third trimester, hatha yoga starting at time of diagnosis, hatha yoga starting at the beginning of third trimester or receiving literature on stress reduction without yoga. Participants will be instructed to use one of two local yoga studios three times a week. Every 3-4 weeks, mothers will go to their OB-GYN for routine blood pressure check, blood drawl, saliva test for cortisol and ultrasound. At time of delivery, results of birth outcomes and a final evaluation on maternal stress will be taken. The results will indicate whether one type of yoga has benefits that the other does not, such as one might reduce pain or stress more than another. Another predicted result is that their will be a significant benefit to practicing any kind of yoga compared to standard obstetric procedures, and yoga practiced throughout pregnancy will decrease negative birth outcomes and maternal stress more than practicing yoga only in the third trimester. This will suggest that yoga is a comprehensive, holistic and long-term approach for reducing stress, pain and negative birth outcomes in high-risk pregnancies. If the hypothesis holds true, yoga during pregnancy might become a widely used treatment, which will be advantageous, not just high-risk mother, but all pregnant women. Ultimately, the implications of this research will provide a useful tool for revising standard obstetric recommendations, which are currently limited.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Psychology (Barnard College)
B.A., Barnard College
Published Here
January 24, 2013