Pregnancy and Early Motherhood Dreams: The Stuff of Which Nightmares Are Made
A study conducted at the Sleep Research Centre at the Hôpital du Sacré-Cœur
de Montréal has confirmed what many of us moms have discovered for ourselves:
pregnancy and postpartum dreams are the stuff of which nightmares are
The study's lead researcher, Tore Nielsen, PhD, found that 59 percent of pregnant women and 73 percent of new mothers experienced dreams in which a baby was in danger. New mothers found these dreams so disturbing that they continued to feel anxious even after they were wide awake (41 percent), experienced confusion (51 percent) and felt a need to go and check on their babies to make sure that their babies were safe (60 percent). The results of this study were published in the September 1, 2007, edition of the journal Sleep.
These nightmares are believed to be triggered by a combination of physical, hormonal, and emotional factors. Long-term sleep deprivation (the result of pregnancy-related discomforts followed by round-the-clock parenting responsibilities); the hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, birth, and postpartum; and the many conflicting and powerful feelings that accompany the transition to motherhood play out in the world of dreams in unexpected ways.
While these dreams can be frightening and upsetting, they tend to become less frequent as you get more sleep, your body morphs back into something resembling its pre-pregnant state, and you begin to feel more comfortable in your new role of "mom."
Do they disappear completely? If my own experience is any indication, I'd have to say no. Just last week, on the night my first "baby" turned 20, I had a dream that we lost her in an airport. (She was about seven years old in the dream.) And so it would seem that once you become a mother you're never totally immune to these "baby in peril" dreams. You're always a mother and, to the subconscious part of your motherhood brain that weaves your dreams, your child is always your baby. It doesn't matter how many candles are on her birthday cake and how many decades into motherhood you are: in dreamland, your child is all ages and your mother radar is looking for any peril, past, present, or future.