Measurement of illumination exposure in postpartum women

Wang, Emily J.; Kripke, Daniel F.; Stein, Martin T.; Parry, Barbara L.
January 2003
BMC Psychiatry;2003, Vol. 3, p5
Academic Journal
Background: Low levels of light exposure at critical times are thought to cause seasonal affective disorder. Investigators, in studies demonstrating the usefulness of bright light therapy, also have implicated light's role in non-seasonal depression. The precise cause of postpartum depression has not been delineated, but it seemed possible that new mothers would spend reduced time in daylight. The goal of this study was to examine the levels of illumination experienced by postpartum mothers and to discover any relationship between light exposure and mood levels experienced during the postpartum period. Methods: Fifteen postpartum women, who did not have any baseline indication of depression, wore a wrist device (Actillume) for 72 hours to measure their exposure to light. At the end of the recording period, they completed a self-reported measure of mood. The mean light exposure of these postpartum women (expressed as the 24-hour average logarithm of illumination in lux) was compared with that of a representative sample of women of comparable age, residence, and seasonal months of recording. Mood levels were then rank-ordered and tested for correlation with light exposure levels. Results: There was no significant difference between the amount of light [log10lux] experienced by postpartum (1.01 SD 0.236) and control women (1.06 SD 0.285). Mood was not correlated with illumination in the postpartum sample. Conclusions: Postpartum women in San Diego did not receive reduced light, nor was low mood related to low illumination.


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