Psychological Changes to Expect During Pregnancy

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It’s no big secret that pregnancy cues your body to produce lots of hormones or that those hormones can affect you both physically and emotionally. It’s common to feel fatigued, forgetful, or moody at various points during your pregnancy. You might also find that you begin to worry about or focus on practical matters like managing pregnancy symptoms in the workplace, maternity leave, and preparing your home for a new baby.

Pregnancy is a huge transition and involves a complex mix of emotions, positive and negative.

While much attention is paid to the physical changes that occur during pregnancy and things like “mommy brain,” it’s also important to prepare for the psychological changes that can occur during a pregnancy.

Mood shifts

In movies and on television, pregnant women are often portrayed as constantly weepy or downright irritable. The truth is that the flood of hormones can trigger mood swings for some (but not all) women. Changes in estrogen, increases in progesterone, and rising levels of stress hormones all have the potential to wreak havoc on your emotional well-being during pregnancy.

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Acknowledging that changes in moods are part of the process and verbalizing your thoughts to a supportive person can help you work through these emotional shifts that often feel unexpected.

Fear

Fear is a fairly common emotion during pregnancy. Fear can stem from a feeling of lack of control, and there’s a lot that women can’t control during pregnancy. From early fear of miscarriage to fear of failing as a mother to fear of the childbirth process to fear of being able to support a growing family, many women experience significant feelings of fear during pregnancy.

Anxiety

Fear and anxiety often come in pairs, and fears about various things can trigger anxious thought patterns. Many people experience periods of anxiety, and anxiety during pregnancy can be traced to the instinct to protect the growing baby. Anxiety, however, can negatively affect the health of the mother. If anxiety interferes with your sleep, physical health, or ability to carry out your normal daily activities, it’s best to seek help from a licensed mental health practitioner.

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Sadness

Many women feel weepy during pregnancy. Women do tend to experience sadness and tears at times during pregnancy because they are dealing with a complex set of emotions and a huge life transition. Fluctuating hormones don’t help.

If you are struggling with overwhelming feelings of sadness and having difficulty eating, sleeping, or engaging in your usual activities, it might be a sign of depression. Roughly 10% of women experience depression during or after pregnancy. Seek professional help if you feel that your mood symptoms go beyond weepy.

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Self-care is very important during pregnancy. To help mitigate some of these psychological changes, get plenty of rest, eat well, spend time with friends and loved ones, and get some exercise.

Did you notice any psychological changes while you were pregnant?

What do you think?

Psychological Changes to Expect During Pregnancy

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about helping parents enjoy the ride, she provides parent education and simple strategies to take t ... More

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