Childhood abuse linked to sleep disturbances in pregnancy

A history of childhood abuse is associated with increased odds of stress-related sleep disturbances for women during pregnancy, according to researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and colleagues. The study is believed to be the first to associate abuse during childhood to poor sleep quality in pregnant women.

The study is published in the October 2015 issue of the Sleep Medicine.

“Our study shows pregnant women who have experienced abuse as children may be at increased risk of developing poor sleep quality and stress-related sleep disturbances in pregnancy. This is irrespective of adulthood experiences of trauma, demonstrating the long-lasting detrimental effects of childhood abuse,”said lead author Bizu Gelaye, research scientist in epidemiology at Harvard Chan School. “There is ample evidence that sleep disturbances are associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Our study now adds new evidence to the intergenerational effects of early trauma.”

“We hope our findings, if replicated, might be used to help develop antenatal (prenatal and pregnancy) care programs that recognize and respond to the effects of childhood trauma,” said senior author Michelle Williams, Steven B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health, chair of the Department of Epidemiology, and director of the Harvard Catalyst Health Disparities and Population Health Research Programs. Other Harvard Chan School authors included David Henderson, Sandhya Kajeepeta, and Qiu-Yue Zhong in the Department of Epidemiology.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, the Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Aplicadas, and Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University, both in Lima, Peru, also participated in the study.