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

Br J Sports Med. 2019 Mar;53(6):348-353. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098926. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


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.

Keywords: depression; exercise physical activity; pregnancy; psychology.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / prevention & control*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology*

Associated data