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Exercise shapes your body, but it may also shape your mental health during pregnancy. Researchers studied 230 women during and after pregnancy, asking about their current and previous exercise habits, depression and body image. They found that pregnant women who reported feeling depressed felt worse about their body, while those who had exercised before pregnancy were more satisfied with it. The researchers also found that women who said they had been depressed in the first trimester exercised less than women who had few symptoms of depression.
“Not all women embrace the changes their body goes through during pregnancy,” says study author Danielle Symons Downs, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology and OB-GYN at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Women who worked out before conceiving may have had a better “body-image starting point” than someone who was dissatisfied with her body before she got pregnant and gained weight, she suggests. “Exercise may help improve body image during later pregnancy by making a woman feel more comfortable about her size,” Downs says.
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