Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Self -care Strategies

  • Self-care strategies, such as exercise or sleep hygiene, should be encouraged to all persons at risk for or experiencing perinatal depressive symptoms. 
  • They can be self-administered in the home and used in privacy and may be perceived of as safe, with few or no potential adverse effects or risks.  


  • Exercise—such as walking, aerobic, aqua-based, and instructor-led or home-based programs—are effective in targeting perinatal depression.
  • Unless medically contraindicated, persons who engage in regular physical activity have been found to have benefits in mood and an increase in social support, coping, and improved functioning.


  • Educate persons who are at risk for or who are developing perinatal depression to implement the following sleep hygiene measures daily:
  • avoid alcohol or caffeine;
  • engage in some physical activity in late afternoon or early evening;
  • wind down before sleep;
  • awaken at approximately the same time each morning to establish a daily routine (when possible);
  • get up and move to another room until feeling sleepy if not asleep within 15 minutes;
  • have a light snack or warm milk before going to sleep;
  • encourage short naps during the day to cope with disrupted sleep at night;
  • access family support or a postpartum doula to allow for times with uninterrupted sleep (if possible); and 
  • practice stress reduction and relaxation exercises (e.g., deep breathing, imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation).
Women and Children
Assessment and Interventions Perinatal Depression
Point of Care Resources