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Anxiety and Depression Before Conception Linked to Baby's Sleep Problems
by Ann Douglas
Babies are more likely to wake in the night at six and 12 months of age if their moms experienced significant anxiety or depression prior to conception.
That's the conclusion reached by a group of researchers in Southampton, UK, who reported on their findings in the journal, Sleep ("Infant Sleep Disturbance is Associated with Preconceptional Psychological Distress: Findings from the Southampton Women’s Survey").
The study -- which involved 874 women, ages 20 to 34 -- found that the percentage of babies who woke at least once each night was higher among women with psychological distress prior to the pregnancy, both at six months of age (52 percent vs. 43 percent) and 12 months of age (46 percent vs. 36 percent).
According to the researchers involved in the study, untreated infant sleep problems can become chronic. Babies who don't acquire healthy sleep habits during the first year of life are at greater risk of experiencing behavioral problems at age three.
This can make motherhood more difficult and trigger both anxiety and depression in mothers who already have a history of psychological health problems (as was the case for 29 percent of the women involved in the study).
Recognizing that certain mothers may be at increased risk of experiencing anxiety or depression after the births of their babies may help to improve the quality of infant sleep and help both mom and baby get off to the healthiest and happiest start.
After all, poor sleep quality can affect daytime learning in babies and toddlers. It can also impact on mothers' stress and energy levels and overall mood.
What do you think of the study?
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.