Must-Know Tips To Overcome Pregnancy’s Emotional Changes
Does your mind feel a little different lately? If so, you’re not alone. Pregnancy not only brings physical changes but emotional changes, too.
In this post, we’ll outline the psychological changes you may experience throughout pregnancy. You’ll also learn how you can flip the switch to increase positive emotions.
Positive Psychological Changes
It’s worth noting that the psychological changes you experience throughout your journey are preparing you for your baby.
Hormones Making You Motherhood-Ready
Some research suggests that reproductive hormones prepare a woman’s brain to become a mother. They may make you respond to stress more positively and help you realize your baby’s needs. Researchers theorize this is the reason why a father will sleep through a baby’s cries while a mother will wake up.
A 2017 study showed that new mothers lost gray matter in various areas of the brain. These areas were connected to social cognition and emotional intelligence. While some may assume this means loss of skills in these areas, that may be untrue. The study also showed that women with the most brain change had the strongest maternal bonds.
A New Type of Bonding
You feel a bond between you and your partner or family—but the bond between you and your baby is different emotionally.
A 2001 study concluded that technologies like ultrasounds increase the bond between a fetus and a mother. Some psychologists believe that even without being able to see her baby, a mother unconsciously nurtures him or her. This explains why mothers can understand an infant’s anxieties before they can speak.
Emotional Changes Throughout Pregnancy
If you’re experiencing some negative feelings about or because of the changes you’re going through, that’s normal. Below are some common changes and what you can do to minimize their effect.
You’re ecstatic and excited one moment, but sad and worried the next. Mood swings are one of the most common pregnancy symptoms. You may notice that situations you could deal with before are now leaving you in tears or irritated.
Pregnancy also has a tendency to bring up painful childhood memories or tumultuous family relationships. These feelings may have been suppressed for years, but now that you’re pregnant, they may seem even harder to ignore. Although this is common, if you experience this, you should consider speaking to a therapist who can help you work through these feelings.
To help manage your mood swings, consider the following:
- Don’t bottle up your emotions. Talk to your partner or a trusted friend about what is setting you off.
- Fatigue can exacerbate emotions. Make sure to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night and take naps in between.
- Food may affect your mood, according to studies. Make sure to eat a balanced diet.
- For more in-depth tips on how to decrease mood swings, read our Moodswing Guide.
During the first trimester, you may be especially worried about your baby’s health because the chances of miscarriage are highest during this time. If you’ve had a previous miscarriage, pregnancy complications or fertility issues, your stress levels may be even higher.
A 2008 review of research found that women that used assisted reproductive technology (ART) to get pregnant had more anxieties about pregnancy security and fetal health.
In the third trimester, you may have anxiety about giving birth, especially if this is your first baby. You may worry about the pain or about complications occurring.
What you can do:
- Make more time for what relaxes you and makes you happy. This could include having a bath, reading or making crafts. It may be difficult to make time during pregnancy, but your mental well-being will thank you.
- Watch stand-up comedy or a funny movie. According to the Mayo Clinic, in the long-term, laughing can improve your mood and decrease anxiety.
- Exercising is a scientifically proven way to reduce stress. To learn about exercising during pregnancy, click here.
- Meditation has also been shown to lower stress levels.
- If you’re experiencing unmanageable levels of stress or anxiety, talk to your doctor. He or she may recommend seeing a therapist.
Sometimes life can be overwhelming even without the growing to-do list during pregnancy. You may find yourself trying to balance work, family and friends, your relationship, baby shopping and time for pregnancy and parenting education.
Perhaps you’re putting in extra time at work to show that you can still be productive during pregnancy. Or maybe you’re trying to prepare everything ahead of time so that you have fewer chores to do after birth. There’s a lot to do and feeling like you’re in over your head is normal.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here are a few tips:
- Take up a relaxation practice such as meditation, yoga or mindfulness. Taking time to slow down can actually help you be more productive.
- Ask your partner, friends and family for help in preparing for your baby.
- Consider postponing work goals. If you’re working towards a promotion, pregnancy can be a stressful time to take on extra work. Remind yourself that if or when you return to work, you’ll have time then to reach your goals.
A common complaint among pregnant women is that their brains feels foggy. This is often termed “pregnancy brain.”
As many as 80% of mothers have memory lapses or trouble focusing, according to Babycenter.com. Whether pregnancy brain is real is debated by researchers. Some believe that women experience this effect as a symptom of mood swings. Another theory is that mothers already believe their memory will be affected and just notice their forgetfulness more during pregnancy.
However, some studies have shown that pregnant women experience more problems in short-term memory loss, concentration and the ability to learn new information.
There’s no one solution to prevent pregnancy brain, but here are a few tips that may help:
- Simplify your life by asking and accepting help. Cut out the least important activities and clear-up your schedule.
- Keep a list of everything you need to remember. If you’re more of a digital person, download an app such as Wunderlist.
- Get more sleep. You need more of it during pregnancy.
- Pick a specific spot to keep every important item. This will prevent you from saying, “Where did I put my keys again?”
- For more tips on how to stop pregnancy brain, read our full Pregnancy Brain Guide.
During your second trimester until labor, you’ll likely feel more dependent on others including family, friends and your partner. You may even contemplate if your partner can meet your new needs.
If you’re usually Ms. Independent, it may be a little tough to ask and accept help. If you didn’t conceive a baby naturally, it may be even more difficult. A 2008 review of research suggested that couples who use reproductive technology feel less entitled to complain about their struggles and seek additional support.
Here are some mindset shifts to consider:
- You can’t do it all yourself. If there’s ever a time to ask for help, it’s during sickness or pregnancy.
- It’s right for your partner to help. He helped create your baby and you’re going through the physical changes. You shouldn’t feel bad about having him help out with chores.
- Helping makes others feel good too. Have you ever done a good deed and felt happier afterward? This is how your family and friends will feel after helping you. You’re spreading happiness!
- Ever heard the expression “it takes a village to raise a child”? When others take care of you, they’re also taking care of the baby inside you.
As your body changes throughout pregnancy, you may find your confidence decreasing. In a society that idealizes a thin body type, it’s understandable that some women may struggle with gaining a baby belly.
In addition to this, you also may experience other physical changes such as your skin changing color and stretching. If you don’t view these changes as positive, it may further diminish your self-esteem.
Even if you understand that these changes are necessary during pregnancy, you may still have anxiety about your ability to lose weight quickly after delivery.
However, some women gain confidence while they’re expecting. They see their changing body as a miracle and feel beautiful with their pregnancy glow. If you don’t feel this way, here are some mindset shifts to help boost your confidence:
- Try to focus on gratitude. Many people have trouble conceiving. Your body is already amazing—it’s creating a miracle.
- Try to view every physical change as a necessary step to a healthy baby. Every time you find yourself thinking, “I look so unattractive and fat,” tell yourself “It’s great that I have a belly because it’s allowing my baby to grow and be healthy.”
- If you experience anxiety about losing weight after delivery, remind yourself that it took 9 months for your body to change. It probably won’t change back to its “normal” state overnight or even in a few months—it’s a process.
Sex Drive Changes
As your pregnancy symptoms start to fade and blood flow to your lower regions increases, you may find yourself more in the mood. You may have increased vaginal lubrication and your body may be more sensitive (in a good way!). If this is the case, take advantage of it! Sex during pregnancy can help you release stress and emotionally connect with your partner.
On the other hand, some mothers’ sex drives may remain low throughout pregnancy. One of the possible reasons could be because their growing belly contributes to body image issues. If you’re still experiencing pregnancy symptoms, this could be another reason.
Here are a few possible fixes to increase your libido:
- Get more sleep. If you’re fatigued all the time, you won’t want to use the little energy you have in bed.
- Increase your confidence. You’re still beautiful with that baby belly—it’s helping you make an amazing human being. If it helps, tell your partner your body anxieties and he will likely reassure you and make you more comfortable.
- Purchase maternity lingerie. Maternity lingerie exists because women are still sexy during pregnancy! Dressing up may give you the extra confidence boost you need.
- Remember that sex is safe. Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy and your doctor has told you to abstain, sex is okay and won’t hurt your baby.
- It’s okay if you’re not in the mood. During pregnancy, your hormones are constantly changing, so it’s understandable if you’re not feeling totally like yourself.
Are you experiencing any psychological changes during pregnancy? If you are, comment below your experience. Be sure to share this post with pregnant friends to help improve their emotional well-being, too!
P.S. Are you stressed about your baby’s health? Many expecting mothers feel that fetal dopplers help decrease their anxieties. These handheld devices allow you to listen to your baby’s heartbeat inside the womb. Check them out here.