Anxiety (Panic)/DepressionExercisePregnancy

Review: Exercise to manage post-natal depression

The National Institutes of Health and Clinical Excellence in England recommend that health professionals consider exercise to treat post-natal depression (aka postpartum depression).

Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK reviewed the evidence.

First, the details.

  • A literature search revealed 5 studies that compared any type of exercise to other treatments or no treatment in women with post-natal depression.
  • The Delphi criteria were used to assess the quality of included studies.
    • The components of the Delphi criteria are listed here (click Table 1).
  • The data were combined for meta-analysis.
  • The main outcome was post-natal depression.

And, the results.

  • Compared to no exercise, exercise reduced symptoms of post-natal depression.
  • However, there were big differences between the studies (heterogeneity), which weakened the findings.
  • In fact, when 1 study that combined social support + exercise was removed from the meta-analysis, no benefit from exercise was found.

The bottom line?
It’s not known whether exercise reduces symptoms of post-natal depression.

Support for the authors’ conclusions can be found here and here.

3/13/09 23:16 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.