Exercise Benefits Postpartum

Maria Ly, co-founder of Skimble
Creative Commons License photo credit: mariachily

Between ten and twenty percent of new mothers will experience postpartum depression on one level or another. There are a number of causes, some of which you can manage and others which are beyond your control. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help you deal with postpartum depression.

If you are experiencing significant symptoms of depression, especially during the three months after your baby’s birth, let your doctor know as soon as possible. She may prescribe medicine, therapy or both. If a recent study is born out, she may soon be prescribing exercise as well.

Study shows exercise accomplishes the same thing as meds

It’s been known for a long time that exercise produces serotonin. Much of how the brain’s chemistry works is still a mystery. However, it is known that serotonin, along with dopamine and norepinephrine is involved with depression. Many antidepressant medications aim at raising your serotonin levels.

A recent study has shown that moderate/intense exercising produces similar levels of serotonin to those used to treat depression. The study considered those using medication, those exercising, and those doing both. After 4 months of regular exercise, nearly 70% of participants who used exercise alone no longer showed signs of clinical depression.

The study included those struggling from postpartum and other forms of depression. Ultimately, the results were faster for those taking medication, but more long lasting for those using exercise.

Good for you either way

One of the best things about using exercise to help alleviate postpartum depression is that it’s good for you anyway. It’ll help you get back in shape and feel better physically, even if it doesn’t eradicate the depression.

Starting an exercise regimen with a baby at home can be challenging. Babies tend to have their own schedules, and may not be inclined to allow mom an uninterrupted hour. Here are some things you can try:

  • Take baby out for a jog or brisk walk. Jogging strollers are perfect for this, but even a regular stroller is fine for a walk around the block or through the mall. Babies usually love being walked.
  • Enlist your mom or your friends. Don’t be afraid to leave your baby with a sitter for an hour or so. This can be tough if your breastfeeding, but it isn’t impossible. Investing an hour in yourself for an aerobics class can make life better for you and your baby.
  • Be Creative. Many kids’ TV shows are great for moving and wiggling to (Yo Gabba Gabba comes to mind). Lie on your back and lift baby up and down if she enjoys it. Have fun with it.

What kind of exercise can you work into your life with baby?

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