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Could Exposure to Blue Light Impact a Pregnancy

August 2017

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As a society, we are becoming more and more aware of blue light’s impact on our body’s production of melatonin, the natural hormone that triggers sleep in humans. But, did you know that reducing blue light could also be key to treating some cases of postpartum depression? Well, it’s true – according to a study conducted by Shoshanna Bennett at Postpartum Support International, “Use of Modified Spectacles and Light Bulbs to Block Blue Light at Night May Prevent Postpartum Depression.


In 2001 it was discovered that exposing the eyes to light in the blue end of the visible spectrum suppresses the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. New mothers need to get up during the night to care for their babies. This is the time when melatonin is normally flowing. Exposing their eyes to light can cut off the flow. It may also reset their circadian (internal) clock.

On subsequent nights the melatonin may not begin flowing at the normal time making it difficult to fall asleep. Over time, disruption of the circadian rhythm plus sleep deprivation may result in depression. Women suffering postpartum depression were enrolled in a small clinical trial. Some were provided with glasses and light bulbs that block blue light. Others were equipped with glasses and light bulbs that looked colored but did not block the rays causing melatonin suppression. Those with the “real glasses” recovered somewhat more quickly than those with the placebo glasses and light bulbs.

The hypothesis that should be tested in large scale clinical trials is that the risk of postpartum depression can be reduced when a new mother avoids exposing her eyes to blue light when she gets up at night to care for her baby. In the meantime, all new mothers may benefit from using glasses and light bulbs that block blue light when getting up at night to care for their babies.


What Can I Do in Terms Of Regulating Blue Light to Prevent PPD?

Understanding the potential symptoms, regularly attending counseling sessions and learning where and how to get treatment are some examples of PPD prevention. Additionally, orange-tinted sunglasses can be effective in blocking blue light and are recommended for expectant mothers who are consistently having to wake up to use the bathroom or for new moms who are finding themselves getting up every 2-3 hours to feed their babies.


Sources: Use of modified spectacles and light bulbs to block blue light at night may prevent postpartum depression | Postpartum Support International
Photo credit: ThinkStock 


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