Approximately 13% of pregnant women and 10% to 15% of postpartum women report depression. Research indicates that exercise is efficacious for treating depression among adults in general; however, less is known regarding the efficacy of exercise for treating depression during pregnancy and the postpartum phase. In this article, the authors review the available studies examining the effect of exercise on mood and depressive symptoms during pregnancy and postpartum. The authors identified 4 studies examining the effect of exercise on mood during pregnancy and 9 studies examining exercise and depression in the postpartum phase. A majority of these studies indicated that exercise may be beneficial for improving mood; however, the studies had significant limitations, including lack of randomization, small sample sizes, and lack of control for contact time. Additional research is needed to better understand the effect of exercise on depression during pregnancy and the postpartum phase. Taken together, because of the potential benefits of exercise on mood during pregnancy and postpartum and the general health benefits of exercise, health care providers should encourage their healthy pregnant and postpartum patients to exercise. The authors provide practical suggestions for depression screening and exercise counseling for pregnant and postpartum women.
- physical activity