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Bizarre Dreams Reflect Pregnancy Angst

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

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.

Advice for Women

Knowing that these bizarre dreams during pregnancy and the newborn period are common might be reassuring in itself. "If women are really being distressed by these nightmares, they should get some kind of treatment," Nielsen says. One option, he says, is progressive relaxation, in which one learns to relax the muscles, one by one, and completely relax.

Be aware, too, that the nightmares may continue for awhile after childbirth, he says. "We studied the women up to three months postpartum, and no decrease in nightmares was noticed yet," he says. "We are now looking up to six months, to see if they stopped."

Yan-Go concedes that sleep deprivation is an especially tough problem for new moms to overcome, but advises them to sleep when the baby sleeps and to trade off feeding shifts with their partner, pumping their milk if necessary. "Get a high school student to help out," she adds. "Ask everybody to come and help you. Pay your sleep debt."

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