The effectiveness of prescription exercises for women diagnosed with postnatal depression: a systematic review

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Abstract

Aim:

To evaluate the effectiveness of prescribed postnatal exercise on postnatal depression. Prescribed exercise was defined as any physical activity that was carried out in the postnatal period with the objective of reducing postnatal depression, as determined by identified scales.

Background:

Research has identified that regular physical exercise interventions are beneficial to mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

Design:

A systematic review and narrative analysis of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) reporting on the effectiveness of prescription postnatal exercise on postnatal depression.

Data sources:

Selection criteria included full text, academic articles written in English comparing exercise retrieved from MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, EMBASE and SPORTDiscus. Research focusing on postnatal or postpartum exercise or physical activity; depression or mood swings, published between 2008 and 2016 was included. The search was refined to include females aged eighteen years or more.

Review methods:

Forty-seven articles were initially identified and full text analysis was performed by two members of the research team. Twelve articles were identified as meeting the inclusion criteria and were distributed for scrutiny and assessment amongst the five members of the research team. Methodological quality was assessed using a Quality Assessment Tool for Quantitative Studies published by the Effective Public Health Practice Project (EPHPP) (1998). Finally the articles were redistributed amongst the team for a second assessment and verification. Discrepancy of ratings for a paper between the reviewers was resolved by a third reviewer through reassessment of the paper and further discussion.

Results:

Eight studies were included in the final systematic review carried out using the EPHPP assessment tool; the review identified six quality RCTs meeting the inclusion criteria.

Conclusions:

The findings indicate that a tailored exercise intervention can effectively alleviate postnatal depressive symptoms, benefiting women both physically and psychologically. Social support experienced by participants in relation to the exercise intervention was seen to have a positive impact.

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