Post-natal depression is a serious problem for new mothers. Not only does it affect the woman who has given birth, it can have serious negative effects on their family members and their baby. Women who experience post-natal depression often harbor feelings of irritability, fatigue, inability to cope, guilt, anxiety and thoughts of suicide. Anyone who has ever had a newborn to take care of knows that these symptoms must make it seem nearly impossible. Usual care of post-natal depression has not proven to be entirely successful, so researchers have set out to find new methods of treatment for it. Since exercise is a proven way to reduce depression in the general population, a recent study looked into exercise as a treatment for post-natal depression.

The results of the study showed that exercise, when it was used as a treatment in addition to the usual care, worked for some women as a way to deal with the symptoms of post-natal depression. When compared with women who got no exercise, those who exercised had a reduction of symptoms. However, for women who only exercised and received no other type of social support, symptoms were not reduced. Additionally, the study that explored this particular method of treatment was a short-term one, so subjects were not re-assessed after their symptoms were evaluated in the trial. It is important to note that exercise may be a way to reduce symptoms, but should not be considered a cure, as symptoms could return if the exercise routine ceases.

Exercise can be a good way to deal with the symptoms of post-natal depression. Especially if you were physically active prior to your pregnancy, a return to such a routine can be good for the mind and body. However, if you are considering exercise as a way to deal with your post-natal depression, don’t discontinue regular treatment. Studies show that although exercise has been successful in reducing symptoms, it is only so when it is added to a regular regimen for getting rid of post-natal depression. Also, be sure to continue checking in with your mental health care provider, as symptoms could return as the exercise routine slows down.

Whether or not you are experiencing post-natal depression, exercise is a good way to deal with stress associated with motherhood. It will boost your self-confidence and your sense of accomplishment, which are necessary to stay positive in emotionally trying times.

Source: Amanda J Daly et al: The effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for postnatal depression. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth Volume 12 June 2012