Women report a huge range of changes to their psychological state when they are pregnant. Whether it is bouts of crying or sudden feelings of panic don’t worry, someone else has had them too! Below we report the top ten most likely changes you’ll experience and some tips on how to maintain a positive mental outlook during pregnancy.
As a general statement, particularly as you become heavily pregnant, you might experience mood swings, hyper-sensitivity of your body image and a desire to eat the weirdest combination of foods that no mature adult would touch. Basically, it can feel like you have emotionally become a teenager again.
The good news is that every element of this new teenage-hood that others find frustrating is completely justified by your pregnancy so you have the ultimate excuse to do whatever your body tells you too. Plus, this time your down moments actually have a wonderful purpose and you can stay sane by knowing that you will revert to feeling like a grown up once the baby is born.
1) Mood and Hormonal Changes in Pregnancy
While your body transforms during pregnancy you are flooded with hormones.
The result of this, particularly in early and later pregnancy, is that you may start to feel irritable. These crabby feelings are likely to come and go and may be linked to the emotional state you are in.
Practising relaxing techniques through yogic breath control, visualisation, some ‘me time’, or whatever works for you can help keep mood swings under control. It is also good practice to prepare for labour as knowing how to relax can make giving birth an easier process.
It can be easy for hormonal mood swings to feel very justified, so be aware that you may be unnecessarily irritable. Have a chat with your partner about how you could work together to make sure your relationship is unaffected if you do start to experience mood swings.
2) Worrying whilst pregnant
Pregnancy is an exciting and unique experience. However long you have day-dreamed about having a child, parts of your pregnancy may feel new and strange. Even the most confident of us will have worries. These worries may change throughout the pregnancy as you feel anxious about whether you might have a miscarriage, be a good parent, or the pain of labour.
Worry is normal and it is good to research and alleviate specific concerns. Sometimes though you may feel a general sense of worry and you can use your support group – family, friends, maternity professionals, and pregnancy course participants – to chat through your feelings in a comfortable setting.
Never underestimate the power of spilling your heart out over a cup of tea!
3) Apprehension During Pregnancy
Anxiety and apprehension are the body’s way of making sure that you look after yourself and therefore protect the little baby inside you. The way the body prepares you to be a parent both physically and mentally is a marvel. However, your biological instincts can make it a challenge to stay positive and relaxed about your pregnancy.
Some women focus on the reasons for their changing mental state. Understanding the different hormonal changes in their bodies can really help keep a good state of mind as they know why they feel as they do.
4) Forgetfulness During Pregnancy
You may have experienced a general sense of forgetfulness during your normal menstrual cycle before becoming pregnant. Many women report similar sensations of fogginess or forgetting basic things during pregnancy and after birth.
The research community is unsure about whether this is due to literal changes in your brain, the stress of dealing with a big change in your life, or just that pregnant women generally have a lot to do so multitask even more than normal. Whatever the reason it is so widely experienced it is sometimes termed ‘pregnancy brain’.
There is only so much you can do to avoid forgetfulness but you can, if circumstance allow, avoid taking on too much and taking things slowly. Pregnancy brain is the start of a topsy-turvy but exciting few years so it is best to embrace the chaos and just go with it.
5) Crying in Pregnancy
Your period is also the culprit of unexpected weepiness and pregnancy may increase the, potentially embarrassing, likelihood of crying at a trailer or endearing news story. You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed with emotion because of the big changes you are experiencing. Getting pregnant doesn’t just fill you with hormones, but can also raise complicated emotional responses in everyone. It is human nature to sometimes cry when experiencing strong feelings.
Sometimes you might need to just ‘have a good cry’. Build up a support network of friends and family early on in your pregnancy that will be there to comfort you when needed and that will understand if you get upset for no specific reason.
In a small minority, crying a lot or not being able to stop can be a sign of depression. For most, it is just our way of responding to a complex, and emotional situation.
6) Body Image and Pregnancy
Your body will change so much during pregnancy. There is, of course, the growing bump. However, your hair may change by falling out more quickly or growing more than normal. Your breasts will change as they get ready to give milk to the baby and your skin may start to show stretch-marks or hyperpigmentation.
Some women may just enjoy the miracle of how quickly their body develops and feel confident with their bump. For others, the worry of putting on weight or the strangeness of seeing your body transform so quickly can lead to feelings of low self-esteem.
Try not to be alarmed when your body does start to change; it is a natural part of the process. In most cases it will revert once you have given birth. Eating healthily can be beneficial to an extent and may also help you feel positive and comfortable. Your body is going through the most remarkable transition to get ready for giving birth so a few changes along the way can only be expected and embraced.
7) Sensitivity During Pregnancy
You are probably aware of potential changing sensitivity to tastes during pregnancy. However, you may not know that many women report that during pregnancy they feel they are more sensitive to smells. Like changes to your body, there is little you can do about this heightened sensitivity.
Most importantly, be careful that you are still getting all the nutrients you need no matter how much salty and sweet food you find you can now eat or crave.
The scientific community is unsure whether some kind of nesting instinct really occurs in pregnant women. Whether it is a change in your brain or not, the urge to prepare the house for the new member of the family is common and understandable. You may find tidying, cleaning and preparing a nursery a good way of feeling in control while so many changes happen inside you. It can also be a rewarding project if you have time off work.
There are the traditional social activities too, such as having a baby shower or organising the baby’s first visitors. Remember your body will not have the stamina you usually do and you may feel tired or ache more quickly. Look after yourself and make sure you find plenty of quiet down-time too.
One of the biggest threats to maintaining a positive mental outlook during pregnancy can be your own thoughts. Being a parent is a huge step and depending on your own childhood, relationship with your own parents, and familiarity with children it can bring up all kinds of concerns or vicious thought-cycles.
Many people, and this is fathers and mothers, may go through a phase of worrying whether they will make a good parent. These thoughts can feel worse if you have not got a good relationship with your parents or perhaps did not have a happy childhood.
In some cases, it may be really valuable to seek professional counselling. For others, a chat with friends or discussion with your partner can help put your mind at rest. It is becoming a cliché to say that babies don’t come with manuals but that is because it is true. Reading and preparing will help a lot but parenthood is a unique skillset which you will soon learn only by doing.
If you need to, deal with the past to make sure you stay mentally healthily. Ultimately aim to start looking to the future and the amazing memories you will be able to make with your child.
Finally, the biggest change to your psychological state during pregnancy is a sense of reward. Nature will throw everything into ensuring you feel ready for the baby’s arrival and will feel rewarded by the experience of being a parent. If you have ever felt pure wonder when you hold the tiny finger of a baby, then imagine that feeling on a whole new level for your own child.
Enjoy and focus on the positive feelings as much as you can and remember that any of the changes you may struggle with are all a result of your body accommodating a new little person. If you take time to yourself, relax and talk to friends and family about any concerns then pregnancy can be a rewarding experience.