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


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

In This Article

Implications and Conclusion

There is mounting evidence that exercise participation is likely to benefit persons with general depressive symptomatology and two small randomized trials have suggested that exercise may provide benefits for women with postpartum depression. Observational evidence has suggested that community-based exercise programmes are acceptable to postpartum women and they consistently report benefits from participation. Given the high prevalence and considerable consequences of postpartum depression to the mother, the baby, and the family, exercise may have a treatment role to play as a therapeutic option, particularly given the reported reluctance of some postpartum women to take drug interventions and the limited availability of psychological therapies. While initial trial evidence is encouraging, these were small, and larger, high-quality RCTs are required to further assess the feasibility and effectiveness of exercise as an adjunctive treatment in women with postpartum depression.


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