Purpose: To review the evidence of the potential mechanisms (behavioral, psychological/emotional, and physical factors) of prenatal yoga for preventing excessive gestational weight gain (GWG) in pregnant women to guide future research. Main body: Prenatal yoga is a common form of physical activity during pregnancy and includes a combination of physical postures, breath control and meditation. This review theorizes how combining physical activity (i.e., prenatal yoga postures) with the add-ons brought by prenatal yoga (e.g., breath control, meditation), might provide a more comprehensive and effective strategy to prevent excessive GWG than physical activity alone. This article a) summarizes the literature on potential mechanisms of prenatal yoga to prevent excessive GWG specifically focusing on behavioral (diet, physical activity, and sleep), psychological/emotional (self-awareness, emotion regulation, stress, mood, mindfulness) and physical factors (pregnancy discomforts), b) highlights limitations of current studies, and c) provides suggestions for future research. The findings demonstrate there is insufficient evidence that prenatal yoga improves behavioral, psychological/emotional and physical factors in pregnant women and more research is needed. Though these factors have been more strongly linked to improved weight outcomes in non-pregnant populations, further testing in pregnant women is necessary to draw definitive conclusions for the efficacy of prenatal yoga to prevent excessive GWG. Conclusion: Effective strategies are needed to prevent excessive GWG to encourage optimal maternal and child health outcomes. More research is warranted to evaluate the impact of prenatal yoga on weight outcomes during pregnancy and design studies to test the proposed mechanisms discussed in this review.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Complementary and alternative medicine