Pregnant women should exercise to keep depression away

While much research focuses on healthy babies for pregnant mothers, little has been published about the physical and emotional health and changes that the mothers go through themselves.

A study in a recent issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine presents data that characterizes these changes and highlights exercise as an effective means for preventing decline in physical function and emotional health for pregnant women.

The study was conducted on a group of multi-ethnic women, during and immediately after pregnancy. Over the course of their pregnancy, researchers observed significant changes in health, including decline in the ability to perform daily functions and increased signs of depression, both of which improved during the postpartum period. However for some, these health problems can also extend into postpartum.

Women who reported insufficient money for food and housing, and lack of exercise, were most associated with poor health, before, after and during pregnancy. The article states that “depression is more common among disadvantaged and minority women.”

Exercise is recommended and seen as an effective way to counter or prevent these changes. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology endorses this and suggests 30 minutes of moderate exercise for pregnant women on most, if not all, days of the week.

“These results can be used to guide the expectations of women, their providers and policies around functional status during pregnancy,” states lead researcher, Dr. Jennifer Haas. Statistics show that over 90% of women in the work force continue to work up to the month before delivery. Of the 60% of women who return to work in the year after delivery, two thirds return to work within three months. The data from the study could ultimately affect public policies such as work leave for mothers-to-be.

While the association between exercise and significant health benefits for pregnant women is shown here, the relationship has not yet been established as causal.

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