Women during Lactation Reduce Their Physical Activity and Sleep Duration Compared to Pregnancy

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 6;19(18):11199. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191811199.


Sleep, mental health and physical activity are fundamental for wellbeing, and some of these factors are interrelated. However, these aspects are not usually considered during pregnancy and lactation, which are particularly vulnerable periods. Therefore, our aims were to conduct a cross sectional study to assess the psychological capital, quality of life, sleep hygiene and physical activity in a cohort of women during pregnancy and lactation periods. Women were recruited from Spanish maternity and lactation non-profit associations and social networks through an online platform with the following inclusion criteria: pregnancy (in any period of gestation) or breastfeeding period (≤6 months postpartum). The cohort was categorized into ≤12 weeks of gestation (n = 32), >12 weeks of gestation (n = 119) and lactation (n = 60). The women self-reported the sociodemographic data, obstetric complications and full breastfeeding or mixed practices. In addition, women responded to the psychological capital instrument, the health survey form, the Pittsburg sleep quality index and the pregnancy physical activity questionnaire. Overall, the groups were similar in sociodemographic variables. Women in the lactation period perceived lower social support compared to the gestation period. No statistically differences were found between groups in the psychological capital nor in the general health survey form. However, the models adjusted by employment and civil and economic status and perceived social support, demonstrated that the sleep duration negatively associated with the lactation period (β = 1.13 ± 0.56; p-Value = 0.016), and the household tasks were associated with this period (β = 2147.3 ± 480.7; p-Value < 0.001). A decrease in physical daily activities were associated with both the end of gestation and the lactation periods. In addition, the decreasing total activity was associated with the lactation period (β = 1683.67 ± 688.05; p-Value = 0.016). In conclusion, during lactation, the poorer sleep and physical activity, together with a lower social support of the woman, may lead to deficient mental health adjustment. Our data suggest that women are at higher risk of vulnerability in lactation compared to the gestation period.

Keywords: lactation; physical activity; pregnancy; psychological capital; quality of life; sleep.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sleep

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.