A new study out of Australia finds that postnatal exercise can be effective in reducing the risk of postpartum depression. The study was recently published in Physical Therapy, (PTJ) the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association. Statistics show that postpartum depression affects between 10 to 13 percent of new moms. The symptoms are usually prevalent in the initial three months after giving birth.
I myself am a prenatal and postpartum certified trainer and especially see an improvement in women who exercise both before and after giving birth. Studies support that endorphins released during exercise can help offset depressive symptoms in mothers who are prone to postpartum depression.
There is no question, postpartum depression is real and thanks to the help of celebrities such as Brooke Shields, there is now more awareness and support out there for women. However, establishing a support system revolving around physical activity with other new moms is one that is such a positive environment not only for the mother, but also their newborns.
The above mentioned study was conducted at the University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and was the first to encompass the benefits of physical therapy based exercise for postpartum women in a group setting. The women were led by a physical therapist with a specialty in women’s health issues. The comradery of a group setting not only helps to build support and understanding, but a healthy bond among new moms. Bonding with their newborns was also a component, as the mother’s exercised with their babies. The program also consisted of an educational session with a parenting theme.
Results of the study were significant, with the risk of postpartum depression for those participating dropping 50 percent by the end of the program and even maintained the same high standing four weeks upon completion of the intervention study.
I myself have also found that moms who exercise prior to giving birth have an advantage when returning to exercise postpartum. During the post-partum time, it is especially important for women to reconnect with their body.