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Beating the Baby Blues! How aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce postpartum depressive symptoms
With experts predicting a baby boom on the horizon due to the sheer fact that COVID-19 left many couples at home together with not else much to do it’s important to recognise the severity of postpartum depression and what the research has found to be effective in limiting the impact it has on a woman’s life so that they can cherish those first few months with their baby!
Firstly it is important to understand that Postpartum depression is a global mental health issue, and is reported annually to affect over 13 million women worldwide. The depressive state can rapidly affect a mothers outlook on life which in the most severe cases can lead to self-harm and/or harm of the child. Given that there is also no singular causal effect which triggers the onset of Postpartum depression it can be difficult to recognise at first or even speak out and confide in someone. The low mood is also somewhat expected after going through childbirth the physical and mental changes are often not fully understood until you have gone through them yourself. On a physiological level, a woman’s body experiences a dramatic drop in hormones (estrogen and progesterone) which alone can contribute to the onset of postpartum depression. Many women are often reluctant to take anti-depressants postnatally due to obvious reasons around fears it will interplay with the nutrients a child receives when breasted or the fact no one wants to be seen as not being able to cope with a newborn baby!
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has shown to be effective when used correctly but waiting times in the UK can often be ridiculously long unless you are willing or able to go private!
In 2017 however Three female practitioners conducted a scientific review of the literature which looked to assess aerobic exercise ability to reduce the symptoms of Postpartum depression found that a number of different forms of exercise shown to be effective interventions when looking to reduce and manage the condition. Although the researchers stated the results should be interpreted with caution due to the research demonstrating correlational and not causational effects it still demonstrates the potentail exercise has when looking to fight off those unwanted baby blues and getting rid of the stigma by creating a comunity of mums who regardless of their age/race/ethnicity/background can come together and exercise and share their expierences together!
This is one of the primary reasons the research stated to approach the results with caution as they could not be sure if it was the exercise which caused the difference in the results or the social aspects of providing mums with a supportive network and an outlet for any built up anxiety! Well the fact of the matter is it really doesn’t matter which variable is accounting for these changes in the body so as long as they are happening!!
The effects exercise has on the brain has been very well documented for years so it goes without saying that it would most definitely offer some beneficial purpose for a woman when looking to overcome any hint of the baby blues!! Now this doesn’t mean your expected to get up and run half a marathon the day after you’ve given birth there’s no harm in thinking about these things beforehand and planning some sort of routine you can begin to follow 6/8 week after. For example you could start a gentle, postnatal yoga routine which looks to re=engage the pelvic flaw muscle and this can then progress on to more functional and class based sessions once you feel comfortable and confident!