UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Is there a relationship between pre-natal exercise and postpartum depression Stephenson, Sheryl L.


Postpartum depression is a phenomenon that has baffled physicians and others involved with the care of childbearing women throughout history. Various theories and explanations of the causes of postpartum depression and suggested treatment have been found in the literature. Since exercise has been shown to be effective in treating and potentially preventing other forms of clinical depression, the purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between regular physical activity during the prenatal period and the incidence of postpartum depression. This study recruited 220 volunteer subjects from maternity wards of two hospitals in the Lower Mainland area. The subjects were requested to give information about their physical activity schedule before pregnancy, during their pregnancy period and after. Subjects were also given a demographic questionnaire, the Perceived Stress Scale and the Norbeck Social Support Scale to complete while in the hospital in the days immediately following childbirth. At six weeks postpartum, the women completed the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale, a scale specifically developed to measure postpartum depression. Using two-way ANOVA's, no relationship was found between regular physical activity and postpartum depression. Since perceived stress and social support had been linked to postpartum depression in the literature, a multiple regression analysis was used to investigate their relationships to the incidence of postpartum depression in the current study. Two profile analyses were used to determine if any relationships existed between demographic characteristics, such as age, income level, occupation, and postpartum depression. Perceived stress was the only variable that was found to be related to postpartum depression. A lack of significance between postpartum depression and the variables chosen in this study (with the exception of perceived stress) may indicate that there is still an unknown factor that makes postpartum depression unique when compared with other depressions. Further research is needed in the potential use of exercise for the treatment of postpartum depression. A clearer understanding of the exercise postpartum depression relationshipis necessary before regular exercise might be used to affect the incidence of postpartum depression. It is also recommended that a more detailed record of physical activity be used to gather information about long term exercise schedule, frequency, duration and intensity of participation in physical activity.

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