Physical activity during pregnancy – relation with postpartum depression

Nilam Shakeel

General Practice Research Unit (AFE), Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo

Kåre Rønn Richardsen

Department of Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University

Malin Eberhard-Gran

Domain for Mental and Physical Health, Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; Health Services Research Centre, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog

Kari Slinning

Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Eastern and Southern Norway (R.BUP Oslo)

Egil W. Martinsen

Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo

Anne Karen Jenum

General Practice Research Unit (AFE), Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo


Physical activity in pregnancy is known to reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, improve maternal health and well-being, prevent excessive weight gain, and may prevent preeclampsia. However, a majority fails to meet the physical activity guideline in pregnancy (a minimum of 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity (MVPA) per week). There are few studies about physical activity and postpartum depression and they have inconclusive results. Most studies have used subjective data (questionnaires). In this study we aim to assess the relationship between physical activity in pregnancy and postpartum depression.


Design: Population-based cohort of healthy pregnant women.

Setting: Child Health Clinics in Groruddalen, Oslo.

Data collection: May 2008–March 2010.

Study sample: 643 women with ethnic origin from 65 countries.

The main exposure variable in this study was physical activity recorded objectively with Sense Wear™ Pro3 Armbands. Depression was rated with The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), which is a screening instrument designed for postpartum depression.


Women who accumulated $ 150 MVPA minutes/week had significantly lower risk (OR = 0.2, 95 percent CI: 0.06–0.90), for postpartum depression compared to those who did not accumulate any minutes/week of MVPA, adjusted for ethnic minority background, depressive symptoms in the index pregnancy and self-reported pelvic girdle syndrome. The results for MVPA persisted in the sub-sample of ethnic minority women.


Pregnant women who meet the physical activity recommendation and are physically active with moderate to vigorous intensity during pregnancy have a lower risk of postpartum depression. Ethnic minorities are less likely to meet these criteria.