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Does Exercise Reduce the Risk of Postpartum Depression?

New mother exercises on a mat with babyShare on Pinterest
New research has found that moderate-intensity exercise may be beneficial for treating and preventing postpartum depression. Kerkez/GC Images
  • A large study spanning 11 countries suggests that regular bouts of moderate-intensity exercise may help treat and prevent postpartum depression.
  • The study authors say aerobic exercise like swimming, cycling, jogging, and dance were more effective for reducing postpartum depression than standard care.
  • Experts caution that exercise should not replace first-line treatment for severe postpartum depression, such as psychotherapy and antidepressants.

Postpartum depression is a debilitating condition affecting 1 in 8 pregnancies.

Diagnoses are often overlooked, meaning the prevalence of postpartum depression (PPD) may be higher than current estimates.

Treatment for postpartum depression may range from antidepressants to psychotherapy and social support.

Now, a new meta-analysis found that moderate-intensity exercise was significantly effective in reducing postpartum depression compared to standard care. The findings were published November 29 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Also of note, the study authors say that exercise is also associated with preventing postpartum depression onset.

“The results of our study are intriguing,” study co-author Renyi Liu, a PhD student and associate professor at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, told Healthline.

“While we anticipated positive outcomes associated with exercise, the remarkable degree of effectiveness, especially with moderate intensity and frequency, was surprising. This reinforces the potential role of exercise in managing and preventing postpartum depression.”

While there are countless benefits to exercise, experts caution it should not be considered a substitute for first-line postpartum depression treatments, particularly in severe cases.

The new research builds on prior evidence suggesting the benefits of exercise for postpartum depression. The meta-analysis includes 26 studies comprising 2,867 subjects across 11 countries and regions, including China, where the study was conducted.

Researchers compared subjects who participated in various

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