Exercise can reduce risk of postnatal depression

Exercise can reduce risk of postnatal depression  Sydney, March 23 : Physical therapy and a health education programme are effective in improving postnatal well-being and can reduce the risk for postnatal depression (PND), according to a new study.

PND is a major health issue affecting up to 13 percent of all new mothers throughout the world, with most cases beginning in the first three months of the postnatal period.

Although its duration varies, it is thought to be determined by socio-cultural factors such as self-esteem of the mother, childbirth experience, and the availability of support and local services.

"Giving birth involves many changes in a woman's physical, emotional and social health," said Mary P. Galea, professor of Clinical Physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, one of the authors of this study.

"A group exercise programme led by a physical therapist, who is an expert in improving and restoring motion to people's daily lives, can help mothers who may be at risk for PND improve their well-being and enable them to better care for their children."

In the study, 161 English-speaking women who were being discharged from the postnatal ward of The Angliss Hospital were randomly assigned to an experimental Mother & Baby (M&B) Programme or an education only group.

Once a week for eight weeks the M&B group, comprised of 62 women, undertook one hour of exercise with their babies, facilitated by a women's health physical therapist, combined with 30 minutes of parenting education delivered by health care professionals.

Seventy-three women were assigned to the education only group and received only the same written educational materials. Twenty-six of the women did not receive either of the allocated interventions.

Results revealed there was significant improvement in well-being scores and depressive symptoms of the M&B group compared with the education only group over the study period.

The number of women identified as at risk for postnatal depression pre-intervention was reduced by 50 percent by the end of the intervention.

The primary outcome measure was a psychological well-being scale called the Positive Affect Balance Scale. This 10-question scale indicates psychological reactions of people in the general population to events in their daily lives.

The research was published in the March issue of Physical Therapy, (PTJ) the scientific journal of the American Physical Therapy Association.(IANS)