Can physical therapy help new moms avoid baby blues?

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Physical therapy may offer some new mothers protection against postpartum depression, a small study from researchers at the University of Melbourne’s Physiotherapy Department suggests. The study included 161 women who had recently given birth and had no previous history of depression. Roughly half of participants were assigned to an experimental group that participated in an eight week mother and baby physical therapy course that also incorporated parenting education; the other half of participants were assigned to a control group given only the written educational materials featured in the course. Before the study began, after the eight-course, and a month after the course was completed, participants’ psychological well being, depressive symptoms and physical activity were assessed. Based on the results of the psychological well being and depressive symptoms assessments (measured using the Positive Affect Balance Scale and Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, respectively), researchers found that women who had participated in the program incorporating physical therapy showed a 50% reduction in risk for preliminary symptoms of postpartum depression. What’s more, the researchers found that the physical therapy benefits persisted a month after the course had ended. While the results are promising, researchers emphasize that the findings, published in the journal Physical Therapy, are preliminary and that additional research is necessary to confirm the benefits of physical therapy for new mothers—and determine whether those benefits would persist beyond three months.