Are diet or exercise levels linked to depression during or after pregnancy?

Our researchers have been looking at data from the UPBEAT study, which included over 1,500 obese pregnant women, to find out whether diet or exercise levels were linked to their chances of having depression either during pregnancy or after the birth of their baby.
  • Author's list

    Professor Lucilla Poston, Dr Angela Flynn, Paul Seed, Dr Claire Wilson, Professor Louise Howard, Dr Emma Molyneaux, Dr Julie Sigurdardottir 

    Start date: 2019
    End date: 2020

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

Why do we need this research?

Far too many women suffer from depression during their pregnancy or after their baby has been born. Outside of pregnancy, there is some evidence that depression can be related to the quality of a person’s diet and how much they exercise. However, it is unclear whether this is also the case for women who are pregnant or who have recently given birth. We need to find out more.

What happened in this project?

By looking at data from the UPBEAT study, which included over 1,500 obese pregnant women, researchers funded by Tommy’s have been finding out whether there is any link between the amount of exercise a woman does and her chances of having depression during or up to 6 months after pregnancy. The team have also been looking whether the food that she eats – specifically the amount of foods high in saturated fat or with something called a high glycaemic load – is related to her risk of depression. Glycaemic load is a measure of how much carbohydrate there is in a food and how quickly that food raises blood sugar levels.

The researchers found that depression during or after pregnancy was not linked to either exercise levels or saturated fat intake in women with obesity. However, the team did spot a potential link between a diet with a high glycaemic load and the chances of a woman having depression during or after her pregnancy.

What difference will this project make?

This project shows that glycaemic load might be a useful focus when looking for treatments or interventions that could be used to improve the mental health of women either during their pregnancy or after they have had their baby.