Exercise in pregnancy linked to lower risk of depression

Starting well

A research team including Professor Keith Godfrey, Director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, has shown that moderate intensity exercise is associated with lower rates of antenatal depression.

Research led by Professor Keith Godfrey, director of the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, has shown that engaging in moderate intensity exercise is associated with lower rates of antenatal depression and depression.

The research, published in the journal Archives of Women’s Mental Health, was conducted in collaboration with researchers on the Growing Up in Singapore Toward healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) study, which is investigating how women’s behaviour during pregnancy affects their child.

Preventing depression in pregnancy

Preventing and managing prenatal depression is a major health priority, not only due to concern for the mother’s mental health, but also because it can affect the child’s development.

Around one in 10 women are affected by antenatal depression at some point during their pregnancy, carrying an increased risk of premature birth and low birth weight if left unaddressed.

Keeping active may help

During a routine 26–28 week visit to an antenatal clinic, 1144 women were interviewed to understand how much and what type of exercise they did each week.

These results were compared to their results calculated from two standard systems for scoring antenatal depression and anxiety used by healthcare practitioners.

Women who did more moderate-intensity exercise each week were found to be less likely to have symptoms of antenatal depression or anxiety than those who rarely did exercise.

Encouraging women to do more exercise during their pregnancy could therefore help to prevent common mental health issues and ensure them and their child stay healthy.

Posted on Monday 12 December 2016