Can exercise help beat postnatal depression?


I was never much into exercise.  Throughout my twenties I’d enjoyed a frivolous and fun existence, never really giving much tought to my physical health.  Until I needed to… after a dodgy routine smear result I decided to give my immune system a boost by eating well and exercising regularly.  I found a unexpected love for hard-hitting, intensive exercise like Spinning, HIIT and Squash. And developed a super-strong immunity that kicked those precancerous, cervical cells ass!  (NB do go and have a smear if you’re due!!!)

I was determined to continue exercising throughout my pregnancy.  My hormones, however, had another idea; they decided to give me three solid months of nausea a debilitating fatigue.  Then the second trimester rolled around and I felt like I’d been born again! For of energy, I hopped back on my road bike (whilst my bump would permit) and got back to the gym.  I think I made it twice before sciatica put a total stop to that.   I had an active job though so I kept moving as much as possible.

After my baby was born I was gagging to get back to the gym… but birth had left me needing a longer physical recovery time than I’d anticipated.

I feel let-down, broken, sluggish and fat.  I felt my body had failed me somehow.  I hated how my body looked.  I couldn’t fathom how I could have been so fit and yet been left so ragged by birth.  I thought a healthy, toned body would recover more quickly from labour, after all, that’s what the midwives said.  I felt lied to, cheated.  And so  the downward spiral of negativity began…and it went on and on and on.

Eventually I made it along to a Zumba class.  It was full of overweight, mature women whooping and ululating, shaking their hips with bejewelled serongs.  I thought I’d ending up in hell on earth. But after shaking my bootie for almost an hour (yes, they did make me wear a flashy serong), I skipped out of that dingy school hall with a renewed vitality.  I felt alive and upbeat and was all the more refreshed just for having left the house and been liberated from my baby for a short while. I even went back a couple more times.  I actually quite liked it! And although it didn’t even touch the baby weight I was still carrying, I felt better about myself.

Exercise.  It’s so fundamental in helping to stave off those post-baby blues.  Raising your heartbeat just a little for 20 mins can alter the body’s chemistry, giving rise to endorphins and serotonin (the boys natural feel-good drugs) and helping to calm stress hormones.  It helps to improve sleep too.

Exercising postnatally can be as simple as popping bubs in a sling or the pram and marching off for a power walk around the park, or perhaps taking some postnatal fitness classes at your local gym with other mums who are likely experiencing similar levels of self-consciousness.  There are fabulous postnatal specialist PT’s out there so if like me, you’ve been left with a few ‘complications of childbirth’ you could have a trained professional come to your house and help to rehabilitate your body as well as get you back into shape. Check out the Hypopressives UK website.

But. I want to make it clear; I’m not advocating postnatal exercise because I want to help women get back into their skinny jeans asap after chlidbirth, no!  I couldn’t care less what dress size you are, were or wanna be, what I care about is the shape of your mental health.

So have a think about what you might like to do and how you can make it happen…

Can you invest in a sling, if your baby is not keen on sleeping in the pram, and get out for a short walk each day?

Do you have a bike that could accommodate a trailer or kids seat, enabling you peddle your way around the local park?

Is there a local gym you could sign-up for that has an onsite crèche?

Which PT’s with a postnatal specialism run home-based training programmes near you?

Will Nanna pop over for an hour and watch your baby whilst you do a quick Down Dog sesh in the garden?

The important thing is not to pressurise yourself but to make a commitment to your mental wellbeing to get moving as much and as often as you feel is right for your body.   Your mood will thank you for it!







Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash


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