September 8, 2008

Exercise May Lesson Pregnancy Depression

Women who exercise and are more positive about their changing shapes are less depressed both during and after pregnancy, U.S. researchers said.

Lead study author Danielle Symons Downs of Pennsylvania State University and colleagues surveyed 230 women in Pennsylvania throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period about their symptoms of depression, exercise habits and feelings about weight, appearance and other aspects of body image.

"Our study supports the psychological benefits of exercise to improve body image and lessen depressive symptoms," Downs said in a statement.

As expected and consistent with previous research, women who experienced depressive symptoms early in pregnancy tended to report later pregnancy and postpartum depression, the researchers said.

What is new are the findings about the role of body image and exercise behavior in relation to pregnancy and postpartum depressive symptoms. Women who exercised more prior to their pregnancy had greater body satisfaction during the second and third trimesters and less depressive symptoms in the second trimester, the study found.

The findings appear in August journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.