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Physical exercise programme during pregnancy decreases perinatal depression risk: a randomised controlled trial


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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