The objective was to assess the feasibility of a prenatal yoga randomized controlled trial (RCT) for gestational low back pain (LBP), mobility, and maternal well-being.
In this pilot, women aged 18 to 39 years with uncomplicated pregnancies at 12 to 26 weeks were randomized, stratified by presence of LBP, to attend a weekly yoga class or a time-matched educational support group for 12 weeks. Sample size was based on anticipated enrollment of 2 subjects per month. Primary outcomes were measures of feasibility and acceptability. Secondary outcomes included LBP disability, pregnancy symptom burden, childbirth self-efficacy, instrumented gait, balance, and falls at baseline, every 4 weeks, and 6 weeks postpartum.
From April 2015 to December 2015, 168 women were contacted and 115 (68%) were eligible. Twenty women enrolled (N = 11 yoga; N = 9 control; mean gestational age 20.2 weeks). Retention at 12 weeks was 81% in yoga and 77% in control. There were no yoga-related adverse events. Exploratory analyses show no differences in back pain disability between groups. Significant groups effects were found on biomechanical assessments, including percentage change in gait speed (F = 4.4, P = .04), double support time (F = 23.6, P < .01), instrumented timed-up-and-go (F = 8.6, P < .01), and turn time (F = 5.7, P = .02) suggesting clinically relevant improvements with yoga. Pregnancy Symptom Inventory (PSI) scores improved (13.1 point difference, 95% confidence interval, 5.1–21.1) at 12 weeks in yoga compared to control, adjusted for baseline gestational age.
Conducting an RCT of prenatal yoga to improve gestational LBP and maternal well-being is feasible and safe. While no differences in back pain were observed, biomechanical measures were sensitive assessments for evaluating gestational LBP-related mobility impairment and showed group differences. Additionally, the PSI showed significant differences in symptom burden over 12 weeks, supporting the ongoing claims that yoga improves a pregnant woman’s overall well-being.