Intense Dreams During Pregnancy: Is It Normal?
You’re in the middle of a park on a hot summer’s day when suddenly intense contractions begin. You reach for your phone to call someone to take you to the hospital — but before you know it, your baby’s legs are already popping out from underneath your dress.
This bizarre nightmare is just one example of the many dreams women have while they’re pregnant.
Having vivid dreams during pregnancy can be scary; you can recall every part, see it clearly and it feels like reality. But these nightmares are actually quite normal and likely reflect your anxieties about becoming a mother.
In this guide, we will discuss common pregnancy dreams, what causes them and what you can do to minimize them.
Dreams During Pregnancy
Many women report that once they become pregnant, they start having more dreams and those dreams are usually intense and sometimes strange. In fact, 80% of new mothers report vivid, bizarre and detailed dreams throughout pregnancy, according to a study.
At least a third of pregnancy dreams involve pregnancy, childbirth and the unborn baby, according to a 1993 study.
Common examples of pregnancy dreams and nightmares include:
- Anxiety dreams— Forgetting your baby somewhere, harm to your family or your baby, childbirth problems, etc.
- Water dreams— Being trapped underwater, tidal waves, tsunami, etc.
- Sex of the baby— Dreaming about finally knowing if your baby is a girl or a boy.
- “Wet Dreams”— During pregnancy, some women constantly dream about conceiving.
What you dream about could depend on how far along you are in your pregnancy.
In the first trimester and in early pregnancy, it’s common to have dreams about water and “fertility imagery” such as flowers and fruits. These dreams can be peaceful or scary (i.e. if the water is a threat).
In the second trimester, your dreams are likely to reflect your baby or the changes your body is going through. For example, you may dream about baby animals and change may be a reoccurring theme.
In the third trimester, women are more likely to dream about babies than they are about their family or partner. During this time, women have “specific and rich images about the unborn baby.” Interestingly, the dream images a woman has slowly begin to decline before she gives birth. Researchers theorize that this is because she needs to “undo” the image to ensure she is not disappointed when she gives birth. Another possible reason why these dreams decline before birth is because there is less fetal movement.
If you’re worried that your nightmares could become a reality, consider this: A 2008 study found a correlation between expectant mothers’ nightmares and shorter labors with fewer complications. A 2003 study found that women who had masochistic dreams during pregnancy were less likely to develop postpartum depression. Following this research, having bad nightmares may actually help you cope with anxiety instead of increase it. Another possibility is that dreaming about labor and delivery may help to emotionally and psychologically prepare you for the real thing.
Although the vivid nightmares usually start decreasing in the weeks leading up to birth, they may continue after you’ve had your baby. Since caring for a newborn is a new experience, you will likely have new anxieties which may lead to new nightmares. Common after-labor nightmares include dropping your baby or not being able to find him or her in the crib.
What Causes Intense Dreams During Pregnancy?
Many women believe that they dream more during pregnancy, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s more likely that you have an increased ability to remember your dreams. The average person has several dreams a night, lasting for 5 to 20 minutes. To put this into perspective, you are dreaming about 20 to 25% of your entire sleep. However, up to 95% of dreams are forgotten.
Research has shown that pregnant women tend to recall more bad dreams and nightmares than non-pregnant women. In one study, pregnant women reported 2.5 times more bad dreams, often about childbirth.
So, why is dream recall easier for pregnant women? The average person may sleep uninterrupted throughout the night, leaving little chance to remember their dreams. However, pregnant women wake up in the middle of the night for several reasons: Their baby belly causes discomfort, they have an increased need to urinate, they feel their baby kicking, etc. These awakenings interrupt your sleep patterns and each present an opportunity for you to remember your dreams or nightmares.
Another reason pregnant women may recall more dreams is that they’re usually sleeping more. When pregnancy starts to take a toll hormonally, women become fatigued easily — which leads to more naps and longer sleep, and thus, more dreaming.
These hormonal changes can also cause sex dreams. Since there’s more blood flow to your genitals during this time, you may experience an increase in libido both awake and asleep.
Apart from hormonal changes, what you dream about can be predicted by your thoughts. A 2013 study concluded that, in general, “in being focused principally on the maternal role during pregnancy, dreams are continuous with daytime concerns, thoughts, fantasies, and so forth.”
Researchers have found a link between the type of dreams pregnant women have and their everyday thoughts. Dreams that were masochistic were more common among women 35 and over who had frequent thoughts about delivery. Their depression levels were also higher.
In the third trimester (after 36 weeks) women had less morbid dreams about their baby being in danger. Researchers say the decline may be caused by women building a greater confidence about her baby’s safety as the pregnancy progresses.
On the other hand, if you are confident throughout your pregnancy and have relatively low stress, you may experience joyous vivid dreams instead of nightmares.
A 2008 study concluded that dreams are influenced by a woman’s mood and that evaluating your dreams could help you learn about your emotional state and help you to predict your course of labor.
Do Pregnancy Dreams Mean Anything?
Some people believe that our dreams have significant meaning. They think that dreams access our subconscious and can give us information that we may not know in our awake state.
When people analyze their dreams, they try to interpret the meanings and symbols in them. For example:
- Dreams about water are said to represent emotions and feelings. The clearness of the water may indicate the clearness of your feelings towards having a baby.
- Dreams about sex can be interpreted based on the situation and who you’re having sex with. If you’re having sex with your partner, it could represent a need for unity. Sex with an ex-boyfriend could represent a final goodbye as you enter a new chapter of your life.
- Dreams about forgetting your baby could represent your lack of confidence when it comes to parenting and caring for the baby. It may also represent that you need to take time to nurture yourself, too.
Apart from dream interpretations, dreams could play a bigger role than you realize in your pregnancy journey. Some researchers argue that pregnancy dreams could be part of a “working through process” that psychologically prepares a woman for childbirth and to fit into a maternal role.
How Can You Minimize Intense Dreams?
We’ve established that dreams reflect what you’re thinking and worrying about every day, so the solution to good pregnancy dreams may be to stress less. Many women have elevated anxiety levels during pregnancy, although that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to relax.
Check out a few of our guides on how to reduce pregnancy stress:
- Anxiety During Pregnancy: How to Keep Calm
- 6 Pregnancy Fears Every Woman Has
- 9 Ways to De-stress
- How Does Stress Affect Pregnancy?
If you’d like to recall fewer dreams, getting an uninterrupted sleep may be the answer. Here are a few tips:
- Don’t drink liquid before bed. This will prevent trips to the washroom.
- Use room darkening curtains.
- Use a pregnancy pillow to increase your comfort.
- Adjust the temperature to your comfort.
Understanding your nightmares may be key in keeping them at bay. To do this, start a dream journal documenting your dreams and try to interpret them. You may choose to gain perspective by asking a friend or consulting a dream interpretation book.
If you are plagued by pregnancy nightmares, you may wish to see a psychologist who is trained to interpret dreams. He or she may be able to help you figure out where the nightmares stem from and help you reduce them.
Have you had any intense dreams during your pregnancy? If you have, comment them below. Share this post with your expecting friends and family members to help them have a peaceful sleep, too!
P.S. Anxiety is a big factor in what you dream about. Many expecting mothers find that using a fetal doppler decreases their worries. These pocket-sized devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat at home, reassuring you that your baby is okay.