Changes in sleep and biological rhythms from late pregnancy to postpartum are linked to depression and anxiety: the three-month period before and after giving birth is a vulnerable time for women’s mental health.

A set of parameters, including sleep and biological rhythm variables, from the third trimester to the third postpartum month of pregnancy are closely linked to the severity of symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to a new study.

The three-month period before and after giving birth is a vulnerable time for women’s mental health. It is estimated that 15 to 18 percent of women experience anxiety during this period and seven to 13 percent experience depression. In addition, about 10 percent of women experience clinical levels of comorbidity and depression during this period.

In the largest observational study ever to examine changes in sleep and biological rhythms during the peripartum period, researchers identified several variables that are associated with depression and anxiety. Most notably, changes in the circadian quotient (the strength of the circadian rhythm), the average amount of activity during the night’s rest, and the amount of fragmentation of the night’s rest were strongly associated with higher depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Benicio Frey, senior author of the study and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at McMaster University, said: “Our findings highlight the importance of stabilizing the internal biological clock during the peripartum period to maintain healthy mood and reduce anxiety. We do.”

“Given the findings, future efforts should be made to standardize evidence-based interventions targeting these biological rhythm variables identified by our team, as either treatment or prevention strategies.”

Frey and her research team conducted the study from the Women’s Health Anxiety Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. This clinic specializes in mental disorders during the peripartum, premenstrual and perimenopausal periods.

The researchers recruited 100 women, of whom 73 were followed from the beginning of the third trimester to three months postpartum. They analyzed subjective and objective measures of sleep, biological rhythms, melatonin levels, and light exposure using a variety of equipment, including questionnaires, actigraphs (wearable sleep monitors), laboratory assays, and other methods.

Interestingly, the findings suggest that certain biological rhythm variables may be important for depressive symptoms at specific points along the peripartum timeline. For example, higher fragmentation of night’s rest was linked to a reduction in depressive symptoms at six to 12 weeks postpartum – a period that coincides with a higher risk of developing postpartum depression.

Support for the study was provided by the Research Institute at St. Jo’s Hamilton and the Teresa Cassioli Charitable Foundation Research Award in Women’s Health.

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material provided by McMaster University, Original written by Fram Dinshaw. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.


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