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The effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for postnatal depression: study protocol

Amanda J Daley16*, Kate Jolly2, Debbie J Sharp3, Katrina M Turner3, Ruth V Blamey1, Sarah Coleman1, Mary McGuinness4, Andrea K Roalfe1, Ian Jones5 and Christine MacArthur2

Author Affiliations

1 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

2 Unit of Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatics, School of Health and Population Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

3 Academic Unit of Primary Health Care, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

4 Perinatal Mental Health Service, The Barberry, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust, Birmingham, UK

5 Institute of Psychological Medicine & Clinical Neurology, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, UK

6 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-45

Published: 9 June 2012



Postnatal depression can have a substantial impact on the woman, the child and family as a whole. Thus, there is a need to examine different ways of helping women experiencing postnatal depression; encouraging them to exercise may be one way. A meta analysis found some support for exercise as an adjunctive treatment for postnatal depression but the methodological inadequacy of the few small studies included means that it is uncertain whether exercise reduces symptoms of postnatal depression. We aim to determine whether a pragmatic exercise intervention that involves one-to-one personalised exercise consultations and telephone support plus usual care in women with postnatal depression, is superior to usual care only, in reducing symptoms of postnatal depression.


We aim to recruit 208 women with postnatal depression in the West Midlands. Recently delivered women who meet the ICD-10 diagnosis for depression will be randomised to usual care plus exercise or usual care only. The exercise intervention will be delivered over 6 months. The primary outcome measure is difference in mean Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale score between the groups at six month follow-up. Outcome measures will be assessed at baseline and at six and 12 month post randomisation.


Findings from the research will inform future clinical guidance on antenatal and postnatal mental health, as well as inform practitioners working with postnatal depression.

Trial registration number


Exercise; Postnatal depression