FPIN's Help Desk Answers

Effects of Prenatal Yoga on Labor Pain


Am Fam Physician. 2018 Jul 1;98(1):49.

Clinical Question

Does prenatal yoga reduce labor pain?

Evidence-Based Answer

Participation in a prenatal yoga program may help reduce labor pain, but reported effects vary from modest to moderate. (Strength of Recommendation: B; based on two moderate-quality randomized controlled trials [RCTs].)

Evidence Summary

A 2017 RCT (n = 60) studied the effects of a prenatal yoga program on labor pain vs. usual care among Iranian primigravida women 18 to 35 years of age.1 Participants had no prior experience with yoga. Those with high-risk complications during pregnancy or delivery, including nonelective cesarean, were excluded. The intervention included a one-hour supervised yoga class conducted three times per week between 26 and 37 weeks' gestation. Classes included five components: yoga asana (physical postures), chanting, breath awareness, meditation, and yoga nidra (yogic sleep). Participants were asked to perform daily yoga exercises and received weekly telephone calls to measure compliance. Labor pain and discomfort were measured using a 10-point visual analog scale at cervical dilation of 3 to 4 cm, then two hours later, then two hours after the second measurement. The yoga group had lower mean labor pain scores initially, and the difference increased throughout labor (2.6 vs. 3.6; P = .01 for the initial measurement; 3.6 vs. 6.0; P < .001 for the second measurement; and 3.9 vs. 8.4; P < .001 for the final measurement). There was no significant difference in use of analgesics between groups. There were no reported harms. The study was limited by lack of blinding, small sample size, narrow study population, and lack of reported compliance with the intervention.

A 2008 RCT (n = 74) evaluated the effects of a prenatal yoga program on labor pain vs. usual care among Thai primigravida women 18 years and older who were receiving regular antenatal care.2 Participants had no prior experience with yoga. Women with high-risk complications were excluded. The intervention included six o

Address correspondence to Rebekah Byrne, MD, MPH, at rbyrne@tulane.edu. Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


1. Jahdi F, Sheikhan F, Haghani H, et al. Yoga during pregnancy: the effects on labor pain and delivery outcomes (a randomized controlled trial). Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2017;27:1–4.

2. Chuntharapat S, Petpichetchian W, Hatthakit U. Yoga during pregnancy: effects on maternal comfort, labor pain and birth outcomes. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2008;14(2):105–115.

Help Desk Answers provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review. The strength of recommendations and the level of evidence for individual studies are rated using criteria developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (http://www.cebm.net).

The complete database of evidence-based questions and answers is copyrighted by FPIN. If interested in submitting questions or writing answers for this series, go to http://www.fpin.org or e-mail: questions@fpin.org.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell Jr., MD, MSPH, Associate Medical Editor.

A collection of FPIN's Help Desk Answers published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/hda.



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