SCIENTISTS have proved what Hollywood actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow and hippy mothers have long known - yoga is good for pregnant women.

Researchers have studied the effects of yoga and found it can reduce the risk of expectant women developing anxiety and depression.

A mother's stress during pregnancy is recognised as being bad for the baby, and has been linked with premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems in young children and even teenagers. Anxiety has also been linked with post-natal depression.

Loading article content

The results of new research led one expert to suggest yoga should be provided on the NHS for mums-to-be as a cheap way of preventing serious complications later.

Yoga has been espoused by experts and celebrities as a way of de-stressing, and actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, Jessica Alba and Sienna Miller are all said to have used the ancient techniques while pregnant.

And while medical ­professionals have long recommended yoga as a way of tackling stress, scientists have now tested the theory in a research setting.

In a paper published yesterday in the journal Depression and Anxiety, academics from Newcastle and Manchester Universities show that women who attended a yoga class every week for eight weeks ­experienced less anxiety compared to those who received normal antenatal treatment.

Dr James Newham, a research associate at Newcastle University's Institute of Health and Society, but who carried out the work while at Manchester, said: "It is surprising this has never been looked at before."