The Role of Exercise in Treating Postpartum Depression: A Review of the Literature

Amanda J. Daley, PhD, C. Psychol; Christine MacArthur, PhD; Heather Winter, MD, MROG, FFPH

Disclosures

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2007;52(1):56-62. 

In This Article

Postpartum Depression

Symptoms of postpartum depression may include a reduced quality of life, anxiety attacks, tearfulness, loss of interest in life, insecurity, inappropriate obsessional thoughts, irritability, fatigue, guilt, fear of harming the baby, and a reluctance to breast feed.[7,8,9] Some studies have suggested that the incidence of depression after childbirth is no greater than that at other points in a woman's lifecycle,[4,5] but it can be argued that postpartum depression is likely to be more problematic because its effects are experienced at a time when exceptional demands are being placed on the women in caring for her baby and family.[10] The legacy of postpartum depression can still be visible years after the mother's illness ends, and numerous studies have found an association between postpartum depression and adverse effects on the child, including insecure attachment, behavioural problems, and cognitive development deficits.[11,12,13] Given the potential for prolonged adverse effects, it is important to offer treatments, which currently include antidepressant drugs or psychological therapy. The consideration of adjunctive alternative interventions for the treatment of postpartum depression is also timely, given that the most recent UK Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths (2000-2002) identified suicide as the leading cause of maternal death and that psychiatric disorders contribute to 12% of all maternal deaths.[14]

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