Pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood physiologically and psychologically affect a woman's sleep. Several factors contribute to disrupted sleep during pregnancy and the time thereafter and include hormonal alterations during early pregnancy, enlargement of the fetus during late pregnancy, and a newborn with random sleep-wake patterns. However, sleep during pregnancy and the postpartum period can also be disrupted by other factors such as restless legs syndrome. Restless leg syndrome is characterized by an urge to move the legs, generally accompanied by unpleasant numbness, tingling, or burning sensations; an increase in symptoms during rest and a partial, temporary relief from symptoms through activity; and a worsening of symptoms in the evening or at night. Restless legs syndrome is frequent and often transient in pregnancy, occurring in approximately one in three pregnancies. Usually restless legs syndrome will resolve within a few days after delivery. Yet there are reports of restless legs syndrome lasting into the postpartum period, which further exacerbates sleep deprivation for some mothers.
Recent research suggests that women with restless legs syndrome are at a greater risk for depression during and after pregnancy. This is especially true if they have moderate or severe symptoms of restless legs syndrome before pregnancy. Restless legs syndrome is sometimes caused by an underlying condition such as iron deficiency or peripheral neuropathy. Correcting an iron deficiency may involve taking iron supplements once your doctor has checked your blood-iron level. If you have restless legs syndrome without any associated conditions, treatment focuses on lifestyle changes, and if those aren't effective, medications.
Moline, M., Broch, L., & Zak, R. (n.d). Sleep in women across the life cycle from adulthood through menopause. Medical Clinics Of North America, 88(3), 705-+.
Uglane, M., Westad, S., & Backe, B. (2011). Restless legs syndrome in pregnancy is a frequent disorder with a good prognosis. Acta Obstetricia Et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 90(9), 1046-1048. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0412.2011.01157.x
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