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

Authors

  • Amanda J. Daley PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Amanda J. Daley, PhD, C. Psychol, is a Lecturer in Health Psychology in the Department of Primary Care and General Practice, Medical School, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
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  • C. Psychol,

    1. Christine MacArthur, PhD, is Professor of Maternal and Child Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Medical School, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
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  • Christine MacArthur PhD,

    1. Heather Winter, MD, MROG, FFPH, is Clinical Senior Lecturer in Public Health and Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, Medical School, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, United Kingdom.
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  • Heather Winter MD, MROG, FFPH

    1. Amanda J. Daley, PhD, C. Psychol, is a Lecturer in Health Psychology in the Department of Primary Care and General Practice, Medical School, Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom.
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Amanda J. Daley, PhD, C. Psychol, Department of Primary Care and General Practice Clinical Sciences Building, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK. E-mail: a.daley@bham.ac.uk

Abstract

There is now evidence to support the antidepressant effects of exercise in general and in clinical populations. This article reviews the evidence regarding the potential role of exercise, particularly pram walking, as an adjunctive treatment for postpartum depression. Database searches revealed two small randomised controlled trials conducted in Australia which support exercise as a useful treatment for women with postpartum depression. In addition, uncontrolled studies and observational evidence suggest that postpartum women, some of whom were depressed, report benefit from participation in exercise programmes. There are plausible mechanisms by which exercise could have such an effect. Limited evidence supports a relationship between participation in exercise and reduction in postpartum depression. Given the reluctance by some women to use antidepressant medication postpartum and the limited availability of psychological therapies, exercise as a therapeutic possibility deserves further exploration. Further research using well-designed randomised controlled trial methodologies are warranted.

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