A randomized trial examining a physical activity intervention for the prevention of postpartum depression: The healthy mom trial

Beth A. Lewis, Dwenda K. Gjerdingen, Melissa D. Avery, John R. Sirard, Hongfei Guo, Katie Schuver, Bess H. Marcus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Statement of problem Support for the effect of physical activity on postpartum depression is mixed. The purpose of this study was to examine the efficacy of a physical activity intervention for the prevention of postpartum depression. Method Women who were less than eight weeks postpartum (n = 130), had a history of depression or a maternal family history of depression, were not currently depressed, and were otherwise healthy were randomly assigned to a theory-based physical activity intervention or a wellness/support contact control condition. Both conditions were delivered over the telephone and lasted six months. Results Eight percent of the women in each condition met the diagnostic criteria for depression at six months based on the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis I Disorders (SCID-I). Participants in the physical activity condition reported fewer depressive symptoms as measured by the PHQ-9 than the wellness/support condition at six months after controlling for baseline depressive symptoms. There were no differences in physical activity participation between the two conditions (128 min per week for the exercise condition and 122 min for the control condition based on an objective measure). A higher level of physical activity participation was related to fewer depressive symptoms regardless of study condition (p <.05). Conclusions Participants in the exercise intervention did not report lower rates of depression relative to the wellness/support condition at six months. Women in the wellness/support condition exercised more than anticipated and therefore, additional research utilizing a true control group is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-49
Number of pages8
JournalMental Health and Physical Activity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported through a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health ( R21 MH73820 ). Dr. Guo was also supported in part by a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health ( UL1TR000114 ). We would like to thank Amanda Bonikowske, Laura Polikowsky, and Silke Moeller for their significant contributions to the conduct of this study. This study would not have been possible without our study participants and we are very grateful for their participation.


  • Exercise
  • Intervention
  • Physical activity
  • Postpartum depression
  • Prevention


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