La Trobe
1166922_Apostolopoulos,M_2021.pdf (966.88 kB)

Influences on physical activity and screen time amongst postpartum women with heightened depressive symptoms: a qualitative study

Download (966.88 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-06-28, 05:08 authored by M Apostolopoulos, JA Hnatiuk, JL Maple, EK Olander, Leah BrennanLeah Brennan, P van der Pligt, M Teychenne
Background: Postpartum women are at higher risk of depression compared to the general population. Despite the mental health benefits an active lifestyle can provide, postpartum women engage in low physical activity and high screen time. Very little research has investigated the social ecological (i.e. individual, social and physical environmental) influences on physical activity and screen time amongst postpartum women, particularly amongst those with depressive symptoms. Therefore, this study sought to examine the influences on physical activity and screen time amongst postpartum women with heightened depressive symptoms. Methods: 20 mothers (3–9 months postpartum) participating in the Mums on the Move pilot randomised controlled trial who reported being insufficiently active and experiencing heightened depressive symptoms participated in semi-structured telephone interviews exploring their perceptions of the key influences on their physical activity and screen time across various levels of the social ecological model. Strategies for promoting physical activity and reducing screen time were explored with participants. Thematic analyses were undertaken to construct key themes from the qualitative data. Results: Findings showed that postpartum women with depressive symptoms reported individual (i.e. sleep quality, being housebound, single income), social (i.e. childcare, social support from partner and friends) and physical environmental (i.e. weather, safety in the local neighbourhood) influences on physical activity. Postpartum women reported individual (i.e. screen use out of habit and addiction, enjoyment) and social (i.e. positive role modelling, social isolation) influences on screen-time, but no key themes targeting the physical environmental influences were identified for screen time. Strategies suggested by women to increase physical activity included mother’s physical activity groups, home-based physical activity programs and awareness-raising. Strategies to reduce screen time included the use of screen time tracker apps, increasing social connections and awareness-raising. Conclusions: Amongst postpartum women with heightened depressive symptoms, influences on physical activity encompassed all constructs of the social ecological model. However, screen time was only perceived to be influenced by individual and social factors. Intervention strategies targeting predominantly individual and social factors may be particularly important for this high-risk group. These findings could assist in developing targeted physical activity and screen time interventions for this cohort.


This work was supported by internal institutional funding (Deakin University, Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition). The funder played no role in the study design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish or prepare the manuscript.


Publication Date



BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth





Article Number








Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles


    No categories selected



    Ref. manager