Postpartum depression rates are on the rise. Want to feel better? Exercise!

It probably won’t come as a shock to learn that the pandemic and the community’s various responses to it have created some considerable problems for new and expecting parents.

Pregnant women are asking questions that the doctors can’t always answer. Will my partner be allowed into the delivery room? What will it be like to wear a mask while I labor and deliver? What if I do test positive for COVID? Would it be a better idea to birth at home? Will the vaccine effect my unborn baby?

Mental health issues naturally arise during pregnancy and soon after the birth of a child. This could look like heightened worry and stress, episodes of deep and unrelenting sadness, or thoughts of harming the baby or yourself. Some of the best remedies for these struggles are found in relationships. Depression and isolation go hand in hand, so reaching out for connection can be a powerful step towards recovery from the mental health symptoms.

Unfortunately, connection is exactly what has been taken from us during this time. Where it was once easy to join a new mom’s group, or a breastfeeding support class, or a ‘baby and me’ yoga class, those opportunities are now much more difficult to access.

A recent study shows just how deeply new mothers are feeling the mental health impacts. The study indicates that compared to pre-pandemic numbers, post partum depression has risen over 40%. This means that an increased number of parents are likely having difficulty bonding with their newborns, and without help, may experience even more difficulties in their parenting journey.

There are solutions, and the one that this study identifies is exercise. While embarking on a full on exercise routine after giving birth is not recommended, getting up and getting active can mitigate the mood shifts post pregnancy.

Full disclosure: I am always a bit reluctant to remind people that exercise is one of the most effective tools in managing depression and anxiety. I assume everyone already knows this, and that they’ve tried and failed to make exercise a part of a daily routine. I know that there is more to habit change than simply being reminded of what you *should* do. For that, people need supported commitment, meaning something or someone that helps keep them on track with their stated goals.

So let me say this loud and clear: Exercise can help alleviate depressive symptoms, and if you’re not up for exercising, that’s ok too.

If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, whether or not you are pregnant or have recently given birth, exercise will almost definitely help you feel better. If you’re having trouble following through on your desire to work it into your life, reach out for help. It’s not a sign of weakness to do so, it’s a sign of strength, and it’s a show of commitment to yourself and your goals. Get yourself feeling better, not just for yourself, but for your loved ones.

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