Sleepless and depressed: postpartum depression



motherly_lovePostpartum depression (PPD): only mothers have the bad luck of going through such an ordeal. Fortunately, in most cases, PPD is not permanent but rather reversible. Tell me about it. I’ve had it myself – an extended one actually because I had twins. A case of a double dose of stress perhaps?

Anyway, many hypotheses have been put forward as to what causes depression in postpartum women. Latest research suggests that sleep disturbances may play a key role in PPD. In a study of 2,830 Norwegian mothers, the following results were reported:

  • 60% of the participating women admitted to be suffering from sleep deprivation. Of these, 16.5 suffered from depressive symptoms.
  • 21% of women with PPD reported to have been already depressed during pregnancy.
  • 46% of those with PPD reported to have had at least 1 episode of depression before getting pregnant.
  • Average nightly sleep duration was reported to be 6.5 hours.
  • Sleep efficiency was 73%.

It seems that PPD is not only due to poor sleep quality but to a history of depression before and during pregnancy. Other factors such as a bad relationship and stressful life events may also play a role. However, tiredness and lack of sleep can aggravate the depressive symptoms. The association between depression and poor sleep was observe to set in about four months after delivery.

Experts find it is important to find out whether the depression causes the sleep disturbances or whether it is the tiredness that causes the depression. To complete the vicious cycle, babies of moms with PPD also tend to suffer from sleep disturbances from age two weeks to six months, according to another research.

According to lead researcher of the Norwegian study Dr. Karen Dørheim, psychiatrist at Stavanger University Hospital in Norway,

“It is important to ask a new mother suffering from tiredness about how poor sleep affects her daytime functioning and whether there are other factors in her life that may contribute to her lack of energy. There are also helpful depression screening questionnaires that can be completed during a consultation. Doctors and other health workers should provide an opportunity for postpartum women to discuss difficult feelings.”

In addition, the researchers also looked at the factors that affect sleep quality in postpartum moms and they’ve identified the following to cause poor sleep quality:

  • depression
  • history of sleep problems
  • having a younger or male infant
  • being a first time mother
  • not exclusively breastfeeding

Postpartum sleep quality seems to be better when the baby sleeps in another room.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.
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