Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pregnancy, Sleep & Postpartum Mood

A new study examined the relationship between disrupted sleep and postpartum mood in mothers. The results were published today in the journal Sleep.

The study from Australia involved 44 healthy women. They all had a low risk for postpartum depression. Their ages ranged from 18 to 41 years. Sleep was measured by actigraphy for seven days during the third trimester and seven days after giving birth.

Results show that sleep deteriorated after delivery. Total sleep time at night fell from 428 minutes in the third trimester to 373 minutes after delivery. Daily nap time increased from 32 minutes to 101 minutes.

Forty-six percent of women had some deterioration of mood after delivery. But the link between objective sleep measures and mood was weak. Variables related to the subjective perception of sleep were stronger predictors of postpartum mood.

“Subjective perception of sleep shared a much stronger relationship with mood,” said lead author Bei Bei. “Women who are concerned about their sleep and/or mood should speak to health care professionals about cognitive-behavioral therapy.”

Bei said that pregnancy is a joyous and exciting time. But it also exposes women to many stressors, including disturbed sleep.

The authors reported that new moms often have a mild mood disturbance a few days after delivery. This is called the “baby blues.”

It tends to involve mood swings and tearfulness. Other symptoms such as irritability, anxiety and headaches may occur. Postpartum blues may last about a week.

Some moms may experience postpartum depression. This involves more severe mood changes that can impair daily functioning. The Office on Women’s Health
reports that about 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression.

Last year a
study found a hormonal link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy.

Read more about sleep and pregnancy on Get sleep tips for new parents from the AASM.

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