Rachel Kelly
Writer, Mental Health Campaigner, Public Speaker

In Exercising My Depression I Became a Better Mom


Jane Sandwood only recently admitted her depression and took steps to accept it and overcome it after years struggling through her professional career and early years as a mother and a wife.

Here Jane talks about the positive effects of exercise on mental health before, during, and after pregnancy.


Hav­ing bad days when I was by myself was one thing, hav­ing them when li­v­ing with my hus­band was an­oth­er. As I got into ex­erc­ise while try­ing to hide my de­press­ion from my partn­er, from friends, and from my fami­ly, I rea­lized that keep­ing fit was not only mak­ing me hap­pi­er - re­leas­ing the end­orphins I men­tioned be­fore, but was some­th­ing I needed to do for the fu­ture fami­ly I wan­ted to build with my hubby.

Fac­ing up to hav­ing childr­en, main­tain­ing a re­lationship, and work was some­th­ing which scared the life out of me. For a while I fell out of ex­er­cis­ing again, fell into de­press­ion and al­most con­fes­sed all, but then, maybe un­fair­ly, I thought to myself that he might never want to have a fami­ly with some­one who is de­pres­sed. So, I thought, I can get through this and I can get myself in the best shape for my kids.

How Fit­ness Helps Ex­pec­tant Moth­ers

Be­fore doing an­yth­ing, I like to re­search it and do it right. It’s how I’ve al­ways been. I re­fused to speak a word of Spanish in school until I had the gram­mar nailed down and en­ough words in my vocabula­ry to sound half-decent. I did not want to be some­one who bumbled around bounc­ing off mis­takes until some­th­ing kinda wor­ked - for me, it has to be done right.

So the first thing I looked up was what ef­fects does ex­erc­ise have on pre­gnant moth­ers. I found that it can lead to eas­i­er pre­gnan­cies, eas­i­er labors, good psyc­hology, good post­par­tum for the moth­er, and ac­tual­ly healthi­er bab­ies. Here’s a few th­ings I lear­ned about ex­er­cis­ing:

  1. Lower blood pressure
  2. Less stress
  3. More sleep
  4. Mentally prepared for labor
  5. Less chance of complications or c-sections
  6. Quicker births
  7. Fewer mood swings
  8. Reduced chances of postpartum depression
  9. Easier to get back into shape after birth
  10. Children less likely to be overweight
  11. Children less likely to have developmental problems like learning difficulties

The list is pre­tty positive and it gave me opt­im­ism that I could be ok and that my childr­en would be ok too. When you are de­pres­sed, you worry about a lot of th­ings and one of those is being a bad moth­er, bad friend, bad daught­er or bad wife/­partn­er. A lot of it is per­haps un­foun­ded, but you feel it an­yway.

The Right Muscles to Build Up

First th­ings first, it is vital to note that safety comes first, so al­ways speak to your doc­tor first about what ex­er­cises and sports are ok. Serena Wil­liams kept play­ing ten­nis while in her first tri­mest­er while some non-contact sports are ok into the second. Howev­er, in the third tri­mest­er th­ings need to quiet­en down, while cer­tain types of wor­kouts and sports are total­ly off li­mits when pre­gnant.

Know­ing what I knew from work­ing out and its be­nefits to me, I de­cided that I wan­ted to be in the right shape men­tal­ly and physical­ly for our at­tempts to start a fami­ly. We set some fin­an­ci­al tar­gets be­fore be­ginn­ing to try and I set myself some phys­ical ones which br­ings me to the most im­por­tant rule of work­ing out while pre­gnant:•

You are trying to maintain your body, not build it.

It’s good to have your upper and lower body in shape; es­pecial­ly abs, should­ers, back, legs, and floor. You’re going to be car­ry­ing ad­dition­al weight for over half a year, so if your body is built a bit more be­forehand, you can cope with it more eas­i­ly. While pre­gnant, I found that sim­ple ex­er­cises were good from li­ft­ing small hand weights, to walk­ing, swimm­ing, and a few gym wor­kouts which were slow and steady, and avoided risks to me and my baby.

You’re Not Eat­ing for Two

Don’t for­get diet and hy­dra­tion. These are both good for de­press­ion too, but es­senti­al for being a mom-to-be. It’s key to re­memb­er that while you have a baby in­side you, you’re not eat­ing for two. Many peo­ple use this as an ex­cuse to just eat more and do less, which is not good for them or their bab­ies. Eat re­gular­ly, drink plen­ty of water, have balan­ced meals, and only in­crease your calorie in­take by 300 per day.

Now we’ve had 2 be­auti­ful daught­ers, I have struggled again since. My last piece was about over­com­ing it on a long­er term basis, which meant talk­ing to my hus­band about my de­press­ion, and fin­d­ing re­gular ways to ex­erc­ise. At first, hav­ing childr­en was ex­hilarat­ing, but it got on top of me and the de­press­ion did re­turn. There were many low mo­ments be­fore turn­ing the cor­n­er and learn­ing to cope with it a lit­tle more. I know it’s there in the background, but with sup­port and the right at­titude, I think it’s going to be ok.


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Check out Jane's first guest blog - How Ex­erc­ise can Im­prove Ment­al Health