Postpartum depression is often an unspoken aspect of pregnancy; new mothers are expected to rejoice in their child’s birth, so feelings of sadness are sometimes swept under the rug for fear of being frowned upon. Postpartum depression can be caused by many different things, including hormonal changes, body image issues, sense of self loss, and limitation of free time.
Studies show that women are also susceptible to feelings of depression during pregnancy, especially during the first and last trimesters. These symptoms are more than just a simple case of the “baby blues” – a 2003 study showed that 97 percent of women who suffered from major depressive disorder during or following pregnancy reported role impairment in home, work, or social domains.
Exercise can help boost mood during and after pregnancy, as well as provide health benefits to both mother and baby. In 2006, ACSM released a Roundtable Consensus Statement (linked below) that outlined some benefits of physical activity for expectant mothers:
- Reduces risk of preeclampsia, which can cause metabolic disturbances in the mother.
- Prevents gestational diabetes .
- Helps alleviate and manage musculoskeletal issues, like low back pain.
- Weight loss post-partum was not associated with negative effects on breast milk production.
During pregnancy, expectant mothers should consult with their physician prior to beginning an exercise program. Heat stress and existing or potential complications should also be taken into consideration.
Additional information on pregnancy and physical activity:
ACSM Roundtable Consensus Statement: Impact of Physical Activity During Pregnancy and Postpartum on Chronic Disease Risk
Guidelines and tips from the American Pregnancy Association
Information from kidshealth.org