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Physical exercise programme during pregnancy decreases perinatal depression risk: a randomised controlled trial
  1. Marina Vargas-Terrones1,
  2. Ruben Barakat1,
  3. Belen Santacruz2,
  4. Irene Fernandez-Buhigas2,
  5. Michelle F Mottola3
  1. 1 Department of Social Sciences of Physical Activity, Sports and Leisure, Faculty of Sciences for Physical Activity and Sport, INEF, Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Madrid, Spain
  2. 2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University Hospital of Torrejon, Madrid, Spain
  3. 3 R Samuel McLaughlin Foundation - Exercise and Pregnancy Laboratory, School of Kinesiology, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Miss Marina Vargas-Terrones, Department of Social Sciences, Physical Activity, Sports and Leisure, Faculty of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, INEF, Technical University of Madrid (UPM), Madrid 28040, Spain; m.vargas.terrones{at}, m.vargas{at}


Introduction The incidence of depression is high during the perinatal period. This mood disorder can have a significant impact on the mother, the child and the family.

Objective To examine the effect of an exercise programme during pregnancy on the risk of perinatal depression.

Methods Healthy women who were <16 weeks pregnant were randomly assigned to two different groups. Women in the intervention group participated in a 60 min exercise programme throughout pregnancy, 3 days per week, which was conducted from October 2014 to December 2016. The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale was used to measure the risk of depression at the beginning of the study (12–16 weeks), at gestational week 38 and at 6 weeks postpartum.

Results One hundred and twenty-four pregnant women were allocated to either the intervention (IG=70) or the control (CG=54) group. No differences were found in the percentage of depressed women at baseline (20% vs 18.5%) (χ2=0.043; p=0.836). A smaller percentage of depressed women were identified in the IG compared with the CG at 38 gestational weeks (18.6% vs 35.6%) (χ2=4.190; p=0.041) and at 6 weeks postpartum (14.5% vs 29.8%) (χ2=3.985; p=0.046) using the per-protocol analysis. No significant differences were found using the intention-to-treat analyses, except in the multiple imputation analysis at week 38 (18.6% vs 34.4%) (χ2=4.085; p=0.049).

Conclusion An exercise programme performed during pregnancy may reduce the prevalence of depression in late pregnancy and postpartum.

Trial registration number NCT02420288; Results.

  • pregnancy
  • depression
  • exercise physical activity
  • psychology

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  • Contributors MVT: had the major responsibility for the intervention programme and the manuscript writing; supervised the field activities including quality assurance and control. RB: director of the study; designed the study’s analytic strategy and helped conduct the statistical analyses. BS: codirector of the study; designed the study and the hospital protocol for organisation and data collection; supervision and monitoring of the participants. IF-B: supervised the field activities including quality assurance and control; responsible for the medical supervision and monitoring of the participants, collection and record of data. MFM: coresponsible for the manuscript writing; helped conduct the literature review, the statistical analyses and the English writing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The authors assert that all procedures contributing to this work comply with the ethical standards of the relevant national and institutional committees on human experimentation and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2008. The research protocol was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Torrejon University Hospital.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Data will be shared upon request to MVT under the BJSM policy.