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Health & Pregnancy

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Bizarre Dreams Reflect Pregnancy Angst

Dreams About Baby in Danger Common for New Mothers, Study Shows

Study Details continued...

While pregnant women and new moms recalled dreams and nightmares with equal prevalence, more new moms had dreams that included anxiety or the baby in danger. For instance, 75% of new moms had dreams that involved anxiety, and 73% had dreams involving the infant in danger, but 59% of pregnant women had dreams involving anxiety or their baby in danger.

Pregnant women reported nightmares about complicated labor and delivery. "One woman dreamed she had a contraction, and that the baby's foot came out, and she tried to put it back in because the baby was not yet at term," Nielsen says.

Another woman dreamed she was in a car crash a week before delivery. A woman who had never been pregnant dreamed she was holding a friend's baby and it transformed into a larva. She dreamed she stepped on it and crushed it.

New moms were more likely to report motor activity, such as moving around in the bed, but all groups were equally likely to speak during the dream or nightmare.

Study Implications, Interpretations

Bizarre dreams during pregnancy and the newborn period can be distressing, Nielsen tells WebMD, and understandably so. "They can get pretty macabre," Nielsen says.

"I notice they reported they were quite distressed after waking up from these dreams," he tells WebMD. "A lot of them went to check on the baby after waking up. That may be a good thing,"

Anxiety, the sense of maternal responsibility, fear of the unknown, and sleep disruption may all underlie the dreams and nightmares, he says.

While the study focused on women, "some of our husbands also had these dreams," Nielsen says. That suggests hormonal factors alone can't explain them, he says.

Another Sleep Expert's Opinion

Sleep deprivation is at the root of the bizarre dreams and nightmares, agrees Frisca Yan-Go, MD, professor of neurology and medical director of the sleep program at the University of California Los Angeles David Geffen School of medicine, and director of the sleep laboratory at Santa Monica -- UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, Santa Monica, Calif.

"Sleep deprivation is a big problem for everybody," she says. The more sleep deprived you are, the more you can expect these kinds of events, she says, in particular the nightmares involving sleep talking or sleep walking, which reflects that the body and mind are out of sync.

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