Women’s experiences of exercise as a treatment for their postnatal depression: A nested qualitative study

Women with postnatal depression are often reluctant to take medication postnatally and access to psychological therapies is limited. Exercise offers a freely available treatment option but depressed mothers’ experience of exercise has not been investigated. We conducted a qualitative study nested within a randomised trial of an exercise intervention for women with postnatal depression. Women described deterioration in their sense of identity postnatally and through experiencing depression and described the positive impact exercise had on their sense of self. Views of exercise as treatment for postnatal depression ranged from doubts about its practicality to positive comparisons with other traditional treatments and to improved recovery.