Any new mom can tell you that sleep is an important factor in how she feels, but a new study finds that some changes in sleep and in circadian rhythms are linked to the severity of symptoms of anxiety and depression during the end of pregnancy. The first few months of the birth of a new baby.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, followed 73 women in Hamilton, Ontario, from the third trimester of pregnancy until six to 12 weeks after giving birth.
Researchers say it’s one of the largest studies looking at how sleep affects mood during the prenatal period — a term that spans a short period before, during and after birth.
They found that changes in circadian rhythm and activity more at night were associated with higher depressive symptoms.
“Our findings highlight the importance of stabilizing the internal biological clock during the prenatal period to maintain healthy moods and reduce anxiety,” said Benicio Fry, senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at McMaster University. Press release.
“Given the results, future efforts should be made to standardize evidence-based interventions targeting circadian rhythm variables that our team identified, as either therapeutic or preventive strategies.”
The circadian rhythm determines how our bodies understand when we are tired and fall asleep in a 24-hour period. If thrown, it can have harmful effects.
The statement states that the three-month period before and after birth is one of the most debilitating periods of time for a parent’s mental health. About 15 to 18 percent of women experience anxiety during the postpartum period, according to the statement.
For the study, researchers recruited 100 women in Ontario between November 2015 to May 2018. Of that sample, 73 women returned for follow-up within one to three weeks after childbirth and six to 12 weeks after childbirth, for a total of three study visits.
Participants were asked to report their symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as their personal experiences with sleep. In addition, on each of the three visits, participants were given a two-week wearing kinematic chart – a device that can be worn on the wrist to objectively measure sleep levels.
One interesting aspect of the study was that the researchers found that different circadian rhythms were significant for depressive symptoms at different times during the study (that is, whether participation was one to three weeks or six to 12 weeks postpartum).
In fact, they found that at the sixth to twelfth week, interrupted sleep was more associated with a decrease in depressive symptoms. The researchers suggested that while this may seem counterintuitive, it may be because mothers who are not depressed may be better able to respond to their children’s needs during the night.
One in four mothers-to-be have mental health issues BEFORE birth: Warning problems are being missed because of incorrect belief that pregnant women have a feel-good ‘glow’
One in four women develop mental health problems while pregnant, a study has found.
Awareness is growing about post-natal depression – but few people know problems can arrive before the baby is born.
Researchers at King’s College London diagnosed mental health problems among 27 per cent of pregnant women.
Using a gold-standard psychological screening technique at midwife appointments, they found 11 per cent of women had depression, 15 per cent had anxiety, 2 per cent had eating disorders and 2 per cent obsessive-compulsive disorders, with many women having combinations of different problems.
These are usually missed because people wrongly believe women always suffer a feel-good ‘glow’ when they become pregnant.
This is a myth,’ said researcher Professor Louise Howard, of the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s.
‘People think that pregnancy is protective of mental health, and then the post-natal period is a trigger for problems. But in reality problems start during pregnancy or even earlier – it is very common.’ She said rare and serious forms of mental disorders – such as severe post-natal psychosis – may be triggered by childbirth. But less severe depression and anxiety are likely to start during pregnancy itself.
Clinical psychologist Dr Camilla Rosan of the Mental Health Foundation, an expert in maternity, said pregnancy was a huge transformation in a woman’s life. ‘It’s a time of lots of changes,’ she said. ‘There is a major renegotiation of a woman’s identity, anxiety about what kind of mother she might be, and it sometimes reactivates problems from her own childhood. These are all potential triggers – and old traumas and pre-existing problems can also return.’
Crucially, she said, women are at a vulnerable point in their lives. And the impacts of depression or anxiety can have lasting effects on women and babies.
She said: ‘When you experience stress when you are pregnant it leads to changes in levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Studies show these can have an impact on the development of the growing baby – it can affect their later academic achievements and cause problems with the development of emotional relationships.’
The study, funded by the research arm of the NHS and published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, involved 545 pregnant women in South London.
Professor Howard said women are seen so often by medical professionals during pregnancy they should never slip through the net.
Her study showed using proper psychological screening tools, based on simple questions about mood, could pick up problems. ‘In clinical practice, maternity professionals need to identify whether or not a woman has any mental disorder, not only mood disorders which until recently have been the main focus of concern.
‘Women should be asked, by a non-judgemental and supportive health professional, at all contacts in pregnancy and after birth about their emotional wellbeing.’
Sources of Information:- journals.elsevier.com + journals.elsevier.com + bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com