A regular exercise regime during pregnancy can not only help expecting mothers with their body image, but also protect them from depression, says a new study.
The study has proposed that women who stay active and are more positive about their changing shapes might stay away from depression both during and after pregnancy.
"Our study supports the psychological benefits of exercise to improve body image and lessen depressive symptoms," said lead study author Danielle Symons Downs, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology and obstetrics and gynaecology at Penn State University.
For their study, the researchers surveyed 230 Pennsylvania women throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period about their symptoms of depression, exercise habits and feelings about weight, appearance and other aspects of body image.
The results were found to be consistent with previous research indicating that women who experienced depressive symptoms early in pregnancy were likely to experience later pregnancy and postpartum depression.
However, now they found that women who experienced higher levels of depression symptoms also reported less satisfaction with their appearance throughout the trimesters of pregnancy.
"If someone is depressed and not very happy with how their body looks, especially with regard to the physical changes that occur during pregnancy, it can influence depression later on," said Downs.
Women who reported more depressive symptoms during the first trimester were moiré inclined to engage in less exercise behaviour in early pregnancy.
Also, women who exercised more prior to their pregnancy had greater body satisfaction during the second and third trimesters and less depressive symptoms in the second trimester.
This, according to Downs, indicates that avid pre-pregnancy exercise might protect women from negative depressive symptoms and body dissatisfaction during mid-to-late pregnancy.
"There is no question that pregnant women, in consultation with their health care providers, should try to maintain a regular and moderate exercise regimen," said Michael O'Hara, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Iowa.
He advised that beginners should take it easy when exercising. Women could keep up with what they were doing beforehand physically, but they should not go all-out during pregnancy if they were sedentary before.
The study appears in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine.