Pregnancy is a very emotional experience. You've probably found, however, that health care providers, as well as your friends and family, focus mostly on the physical aspects of your pregnancy. Their primary concern, of course, is that you and your baby are healthy. Moreover, the physical elements of pregnancy are more concrete and easily observed by others. But many pregnant women agree that the emotions and mood swings are just as challenging as the physical symptoms.
What makes pregnancy so emotional? And how can you cope with the wide range of feelings and moods that are likely to occur?
The Big Adjustment
Many women look forward to pregnancy and motherhood at some point in their lifetime. But once you do become pregnant, whether the pregnancy was planned or not, your feelings may be different from what you expected. Women who anticipated feeling fearful may be surprisingly at ease; those who thought they were ready may suddenly feel unsure.
In fact, a woman's feelings change with each passing trimester, and each phase brings its own emotional issues. In your first trimester, you may struggle with the very fact that you're pregnant. During the second trimester, you might focus on the notion that you really are going to have a baby. In the third trimester, you'll probably extend that thinking further and contemplate the responsibilities—and the joys—of being a mother. This takes a lot of emotional adjustment!
A pregnancy also changes the dynamics of your family's relationships. If this is your first baby, you will go from being an individual or part of a couple, with obligations only to yourself or to another adult, to having full-time responsibility for a totally dependent infant.
If you're having a second baby (or third or fourth), changes still take place within the family as your responsibilities increase. Bringing a new little person into a family can be stressful at times, even under the happiest circumstances. That's why pregnancy is sometimes called a "developmental crisis." Although having a baby is a normal and wonderful part of life, it can still feel overwhelming. And your feelings can be magnified by the hormonal changes taking place in your body.
What You May Be Feeling
Here are emotions and reactions that many pregnant women report. Please note that they are not all negative:
- joy, happiness, and excitement
- uncertainty, or fear
- greater dependency on your partner or family members
- pride that you have accomplished a miracle
- love for your baby, becoming attached even before he's born
- reactions to the changes in your body image (you may love the way your body looks during pregnancy, or you may not)
- feeling scatterbrained
- sadness over the loss of the way things used to be
- anxiety about finances, living arrangements, childcare, loss of independence, changes in your relationship with your partner, labor and birth, whether you'll be a good mother, and so on
- impatience— feeling as though you've been pregnant forever
- oversensitivity to others' comments or advice
- frequent crying
- daydreams about your baby
Keeping Your Emotions in Check
Although all of the above are normal, you can take measures to lessen your mood swings during this exciting but stressful time:
- Stay physically healthy. Eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest. If you don't feel well or are tired, you're more likely to be anxious or upset.
- Become informed. For example, attend prenatal and childbirth classes and read books about pregnancy. Knowing what to expect, hearing from professionals, and meeting other parents-to-be can help alleviate stress.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with your partner, friends, or family members.
- Avoid overextending yourself with home or work commitments.
Check with your health care provider before taking any medication for depression or mood swings, including herbal remedies. Always consult your health care provider before taking any drugs, over-the-counter or prescription, during pregnancy.
Remember to take good care of yourself, as you are the priority right now. In a few years you might look back at these 9 months and miss them greatly.