How exercise can help with postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It's a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect fathers and partners, although this is less common.

Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the 'baby blues' and is so common that it’s considered normal. The 'baby blues' do not last for more than two weeks after giving birth.

If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.

Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood

  • lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world

  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time

  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day

  • difficulty bonding with your baby

  • withdrawing from contact with other people

  • problems concentrating and making decisions

  • frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby

How can exercise help?

So how can exercise help with post-natal depression? Exercise is known to maintain and even improve feelings of well-being by causing chemical changes in our brains.

With maternal body weight and postpartum weight being important predictors of psychological well-being following birth, the additional benefits of exercise, which include weight-loss, accelerated post-birth recovery times, building strength and the social interaction that comes with exercising will only help with your PND.

The body can have a powerful effect on mental well-being; and therefore, moving your body and getting some exercise is likely to make you feel good!

What type of exercise is best for you post birth?

I would recommend that you go to a specialist post-natal class, these include buggy fitness classes, core restore programs and classes where you bring your baby along with you. They are the most convenient, social and safe way to excercise post baby.

Any good post-natal trainer will not let you exercise before 6 weeks after normal delivery or 10-12 weeks after a C-section. All of my fit mum classes are post-natal specific, and I check every new mum for several things. A posture analysis and diastasis check is done to make sure you are doing the correct exercises for your body.

Please make sure that this is done before starting any exercise program but most importantly, you find a friendly welcoming qualified instructor/class to start your journey with exercise again.

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