Mothers' Mental Health Woes Can Mean Poor Sleep For New Children
> 7/30/2007 11:00:04 AM

New parents the world over experience it - a newborn that just won't go to sleep. Sometimes the solution could be as simple as changing a diaper. Other times it may be a high fever or ear infection. But some researchers now claim that an infant's restlessness may be the cause of stress experienced by their mother before birth. Conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in the UK, a new study has found that women who were under higher levels of stress had infants who were 40% more likely not to sleep through the night, wake too early or have general restlessness.

Published in the journal, Early Human Development, the study followed 14,000 women in Avon, England and had them report on the amount of depression and anxiousness they experienced during and after their pregnancies. Following delivery, study participants reported on their infants' sleep patterns at 6, 18 and 30 months. The researchers were looking for links between stressed moms and signs of sleep deprivation in infants.  The results were surprising to say the least. Mothers who experienced depression and other anxiety symptoms gave birth to babies who had 12 hours of sleep per night- the same amount as infants from unstressed mothers.

So were the researchers hypotheses incorrect? According to the study, although infants from stressed mothers did have the same amount of sleep as those from unstressed mothers, the quality of sleep was greatly diminished. The researchers found that mothers who were depressed and anxious four months into their pregnancy were 40% more likely to have an infant who refused to go to bed, consistently crawled out of bed and woke up too early. These results persisted even when other areas known to affect infant sleep patterns were controlled for.

As detailed as this new study is, little is still known of the correlation between prenatal stress and the effects on the newborn. The puzzle pieces appear to be falling into place with studies like this, but much more research is needed to uncover other unanswered questions. Lead author and associate professor of psychiatry Dr. Thomas O'Connor believes the study will lend itself to future exploration into the mystery of determining how much a child's personality is shaped during and after it is born. O'Connor, in a URMC press release said:

"We've long known that a child's sleep is vital to his or her growth, but the origins of problems affecting it remained unclear. Now, we have evidence that these patterns may be set early on, perhaps even before birth. This is another piece in the unfolding mystery of just how much the prenatal environment may shape a child's health and development for years to come."

With the results of this study firmly stated, it is once again clear that the wellness of a child relates back to the wellness of their mother. Studies like this provide a link between the effects stress has on mothers and their children. Stress experienced by mothers during pregnancy can also increase the likelihood of a miscarriage and should not be taken lightly. Expectant mothers need to understand that stress associated with pregnancy can affect the prenatal environment just as other negative behaviors such as substance abuse or even drinking alcohol do. By taking steps to relieve stress, mothers and their families can ensure a healthier child after delivery. Newer techniques, like prenatal massage, are providing options, but anything that helps moms-to-be relax is a step in the right direction.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy