Depression

Postpartum Depression Amid the Pandemic? This Can Help.

This simple step is associated with improved emotional health.

Posted Jul 15, 2020

Depression and anxiety are skyrocketing among pregnant and postpartum women during the pandemic. A June 2020 study by Davenport and colleagues showed that 15% of pregnant and postpartum women self-reported depression before the pandemic, yet 40% reported feeling depressed during it. Twenty-nine percent of women reported moderate to high anxiety before the pandemic, and this number soared to 72% during the pandemic.

The pandemic caused most pre- and postpartum women to exercise less than they had been doing before it started. A large study found that 64% of pregnant and postpartum women reduced their physical activity with the onset of isolation measures (15% increased, and 21% had no change to their physical activity). 

This study of 900 pregnant and postpartum women had a powerful finding: Women who engaged in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) during the pandemic had significantly lower scores for anxiety and depression than those who did not. 

Another study suggests that in addition to lowering anxiety and depression, moderate physical activity during pregnancy has the potential to reduce fatigue and stress and improve well-being. 

Tips

Walk fast. Walking fast will help you live longer! A Mayo Clinic study found that participants reporting a brisk walking pace had longer life expectancies across all levels of BMIs. 

Walk in a natural setting. Researchers found that walking in a natural setting for 90 minutes significantly reduced activity in the part of the brain linked to mental illness. It also reduced rumination. The researchers suggest that walking in nature is a vital part of preventing or treating depression. Walking in an urban environment did not have the same effect.

Turn off your phone. Research suggests that walking while texting produces significant decreases in gait velocity, stride length, and cadence; which makes you walk slower and increases your risk of trips and falls.

Try walking meditation. Research suggests that meditation has a moderate effect on alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. Do a walking meditation, where you repeat, “All sounds return to the pace. All thoughts return to the pace. All feelings return to the pace. All distractions return to the pace.”

Erin Leyba, LCSW, Ph.D. is the author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Quick, Research-Based Ideas to Overcome Stress and Build a Life You Love.