Postpartum Nightmares: Which Are The Most Common?

Postpartum nightmares are very common. They may be due to lack of rest or hormonal imbalances. Learn all about them here.
Postpartum Nightmares: Which Are The Most Common?
Elena Sanz

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

Postpartum nightmares are more common than you might think, according to some studies. These dreams can be quite disturbing, since they often have to do with the newborn.

In most cases, the contents of these nightmares are related to situations in which the baby is in danger, disappears, or falls out of bed. This generates no small amount of anxiety in mothers.

It is said that they are the product of a combination of factors, among which are hormonal imbalances, as well as lack of rest or changes in schedule come with the arrival of the baby.

Read on and find out what are the most frequent nightmares in the postpartum period and what can be done to deal with them.

Why do postpartum nightmares occur?

Nightmares are described as a type of parasomnia that occur at the end of a sleep cycle. During nightmares, images that are both distressing and very vivid flash through our minds.

Thus, the experience is disturbing. Sometimes even nightmares are accompanied by screaming, violent movements, sweating, or crying. As a result, the person often wakes up very startled, with signs of nervous agitation.

However, nightmares in the postpartum period are quite common. According to one study, more than 90% of women tend to have this type of dream close to or after childbirth.

In particular, most of the women interviewed (about 75%) in the aforementioned research reported that the content of these dreams was related to situations in which their babies were in danger, which caused them distress or anxiety when they woke up.

Postpartum nightmares can arise as a natural emotional reaction to the new responsibility of being a mother. Therefore, there are expectations and fears about making a mistake and doing something that could be harmful to the baby.

In addition, it’s worth noting that changes also occur with the arrival of motherhood. One of these has to do with the irregularity in sleep schedules, so it’s not possible to achieve quality sleep.

Thirdly, another factor that contributes to the appearance of nightmares in the postpartum period is the alteration of hormone levels. This occurs not only during pregnancy, but also after giving birth.

Babies generate an alteration of routines that complicates the rest of new mothers. This encourages the appearance of nightmares.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Postpartum Urinary Incontinence: Why Does it Occur and How to Treat It?

What are the most common nightmares in the postpartum period?

Among the most frequent nightmares in the postpartum period are those in which the baby is in a dangerous situation that the mother cannot control. However, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common nightmare scenarios.

1. Postpartum nightmares: The baby falls out of bed

To dream that the newborn falls out of bed is a frequent occurrence when the mother sleeps with the child. This is a situation about which there is still much discussion, regarding whether it is something positive or negative.

However, this type of dream can also happen when the mother has been breastfeeding and falls asleep, due to accumulated tiredness.

2. The baby is lost

In this nightmare, the mother dreams that the child cries, but can’t find it. It’s even the case that, in the dream, the baby is in bed and the mother looks for it between the sheets without being able to find it.

3. The baby is kidnapped

In another of the frequent postpartum nightmares, similar to the previous one, the child is lost in a public place because someone has taken it. A variant of the same dream is that someone has taken the newborn from the crib, which is empty when the mother comes to look.

4. The forgotten baby

As distressing as the previous ones is the postpartum nightmare in which the mother dreams that she has carelessly forgotten the baby somewhere. Thus, to the terror of not finding the child is added the guilt of being responsible for such a thing happening. This is usually a reflection of the fear that any woman experiences of this happening in reality.

5. Other common postpartum nightmares

In addition to those mentioned above, other distressing dreams that women who have recently given birth include the following:

  • The baby falls and hits its head.
  • The child cries inconsolably with no known cause.
  • An invisible and imminent danger (perhaps an animal) stalks the baby.
  • The newborn cries for hunger, but there’s nothing to feed him/her.

We think you may be interesting in reading this, too: How to Recognize Postpartum Depression and Treat it

What to do about postpartum nightmares

These nightmares, when added to poor quality sleep, could affect the mother’s overall functioning as well as her relationship with the baby and the attention she should pay to care for them. If this is the case, there are some things that can and should be done to overcome this situation in the best possible way.

For one thing, it doesn’t hurt to ask for or accept help if the situation with baby care is complicated. This can happen both with new mothers, due to lack of experience, and with those who have other small children to take care of.

Whatever our situation is, we need a good night’s sleep. And although a new mother who has just given birth thinks that she should spend all her time watching her baby, this is not entirely true.

Whatever it takes, you need to find that space to rest properly. This will help minimize the occurrence of postpartum nightmares.

If you have a partner, you should trust that someone can help you take care of the baby. The same applies to a family member with whom you live. In addition, this will allow you to establish good bonds between the newborn and the people around you.

Finally, you should lower your stress levels and anxiety about caring for the baby. This doesn’t mean going to the extreme of neglect. However, taking good care and being anxious are not synonymous, nor is the latter required to achieve the former.

Poco descanso por cuidar al bebé causa pesadilla posparto.
Being able to delegate certain baby care and other household routines to others is healthy and necessary.

Postpartum nightmares:  When to see a doctor

In addition to waking up in a state that mixes confusion with anxiety, the most common thing is that the mother feels a greater desire to protect her child. However, it’s important to note that these nightmares have no real meaning and can be quite normal. Dreams are dreams, as Calderón de la Barca once said.

However, if the person feels that these dreams are very frequent or disturbing, it is necessary to talk to those around you and tell what you’re feeling and identify what’s really worrying you.

In addition, if disturbing dreams are accompanied by discouragement, apathy, sadness, or obsessive thoughts, it may be postpartum depression. It may also be a possible indication of an anxiety outbreak or manifestation of psychosis.

In any case, this should be determined by a professional behavioral specialist. Therefore, in situations where the mother’s life and the relationship she has with her child are beginning to be affected, it’s a good idea to get therapy.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.