Study: anxious, depressed mother, sleepless baby

Babies and toddlers of mothers who experienced anxiety or depression during pregnancy tend to have more sleep problems than other young children, a new study suggests.

Study: anxious, depressed mother, sleepless baby

Babies and toddlers of mothers who experienced anxiety or depression during pregnancy tend to have more sleep problems than other young children, a new study suggests.

It's imperative that young children develop healthy sleep habits, but elevated stress hormones that mark depression and anxiety in the mother may shape fetal brain development in a way that disturbs early-life sleep patterns, says lead study author Dr. Thomas O'Connor, associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y.

Sleep problems have been linked to a higher risk of behavioral problems in childhood, he said.

"Quality of sleep early on may be a good indicator of healthy development," O'Connor told Reuters Health. "I think the message is, let's take stress and anxiety during pregnancy seriously."

The result of the findings -- published in the July issue of the journal Early Human Development -- are based on a survey of more than 14,000 British women who answered questions about anxiety and depression symptoms during and after pregnancy. They were also surveyed about their children's sleep habits at ages 6 months, 18 months and 30 months.

In general, mothers with greater symptoms during pregnancy reported more sleep problems with their children — such as frequent nighttime awakenings, difficulty falling asleep and, with older children, regularly refusing to go to bed.

Mothers' symptoms of depression and anxiety after giving birth did not explain the link between prenatal symptoms and child sleep problems. "This supports the notion that there's something special about the prenatal period," O'Connor said.

It's not clear yet how to best alleviate stress and anxiety in pregnancy, or whether this would lessen children's sleep problems. More study is needed, O'Connor said, but potential options include relaxation therapy and other non-drug approaches that would not carry a risk of adverse effects on the fetus.

Agencies

Last Mod: 10 Ağustos 2007, 17:07
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