After giving birth, women experience significant physiological and emotional changes that often cause a wide array of feelings. These emotions can feel overwhelming, and they may be a combination of both positive and negative as a new mother adjusts to her responsibilities as a caregiver for a newborn baby.
Although happiness and exhilaration are usually part of the mix, new mothers can also feel confused, fearful, sad, and anxious in the days and weeks after childbirth. Most women experience some of these negative feelings as the “baby blues” during the first 10 days after giving birth, and this is considered typical.
For some new mothers, however, negative feelings continue or even worsen after the initial postpartum period. When this happens, postpartum depression may be occurring. This condition warrants treatment from a caregiver.
- Beyond the Baby Blues
- Postpartum Depression Facts
- Postpartum Depression
- Overview of Postpartum Depression
- Depression Among Women
- Check Yourself for Postpartum Depression (PDF)
- What Is Postpartum Depression?
- Postpartum Depression
As postpartum mothers take care of newborns, sleep deprivation is a common issue. Round-the-clock feedings and overnight wakefulness are typical for new babies, and mothers are often the main caregivers in charge of caring for and feeding their newborns.
Impaired sleep quality and insufficient amounts of sleep can worsen depression symptoms significantly. New mothers may experience a lack of energy and diminished ability to function during the day due to sleep deprivation. These symptoms may cause the development of postpartum depression, or they may increase postpartum depression symptoms if they are already present.
Together, these issues can make it difficult for a new mother to take care of a newborn effectively, and they may negatively impact the bonding process between mother and baby.
- Sleep and Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Depression and Poor Sleep Quality Occur Together
- Poor Sleep Is Independently Associated With Depression in Postpartum Women
- Insomnia and Postpartum Depression: When a New Mom’s Sleep Loss Turns Perilous
- Sleep Study Shows New Moms are Dangerously Exhausted for Months
- The Lifelong Duel Between Motherhood and Sleep
When a new mother suffers from postpartum depression and impaired sleep quality, the impact can affect the new baby as well. A mother who is positively engaged with her newborn will be responsive to the baby’s needs, which creates security and enhanced social engagement in the infant. When sleep deprivation and anxiety are present in the mother, the baby often experiences stress, which creates a physiological response.
This often results in lower social engagement in the child and increased fear regulation, especially if the child’s needs are not met adequately. During the first three years of life, children’s brains have the capacity to develop millions of neural connections. These connections form the foundation of brain development for the rest of a child’s life.
These neural connections seem to peak and wane at a faster rate in children whose mothers experience postpartum depression, indicating that these babies may have fewer neural connections compared to babies whose mothers don’t have postpartum depression.
- Postpartum Mental Health Can Have an Effect on a Child
- Children Can Also Suffer When Their Mothers Have Postpartum Depression
- The Effects of Maternal Depression on Social-Emotional Development (PDF)
Improving sleep hygiene involves making an effort to follow a few key guidelines. New mothers should avoid spending long periods of time in bed trying to sleep if sleep is elusive, as this tends to increase feelings of anxiety and frustration.
It’s also a good idea to avoid using electronic devices at night, as the type of light that emanates from them is associated with suppressed melatonin production, which can interfere with sleep quality, cognitive function, and mood. Mothers should also avoid exercise, caffeine, and nicotine products in the evening hours.
Engaging in meditation and deep breathing may help with relaxation and sleep as well. And the old advice to “sleep while the baby sleeps” is still good advice: Take a nap whenever it’s possible, especially in those difficult early weeks and months.
- Sleep Hygiene
- How to Sleep Well
- Sleep Hygiene Tips (PDF)
- Tips to Improve on Your Sleep Hygiene
- Postpartum Depression Treatment Options
The postpartum period can be challenging for any mother, and it’s important to be vigilant for signs of anxiety or sleep deprivation to ensure the ongoing health of both mother and baby. Adequate support from family and friends can help new mothers feel confident and comfortable in their new roles as caregivers. Seeking medical intervention can also help minimize long-term ramifications of postpartum depression for both mother and child.
[Editor’s Note: The content provided on this site is for general informational purposes only. Any medical information provided is not a substitute for professional medical advice. We encourage you to consult with the appropriate health expert if you have concerns.]