Pregnancy is an exciting time with lots of changes. Many people have some knowledge of the physical changes that occur with pregnancy but are caught off-guard by the emotional changes that they notice in themselves or their partner. Let’s look at the emotional shifts that can occur in each trimester and some helpful hints for emotional wellness during your pregnancy.
As your body ramps up the hormones needed for a healthy pregnancy (estrogen and progesterone), you might notice some unwanted side effects. Apart from the morning sickness and tiredness, you might have some mood swings, or feel easily irritated or tearful. It’s also common to feel many different emotions about the fact that you’re pregnant, sometimes experiencing opposite emotions at the same time, such as happiness and anxiety. You might be feeling upset about an unwanted pregnancy.
Often these emotional symptoms wear off as your body adapts to the higher hormone levels, but some people struggle with their emotions throughout their pregnancy.
Often the morning sickness, intense fatigue, and mood swings of early pregnancy improve by this point. However, you might notice yourself feeling more forgetful or disorganized.
As your body starts changing size and shape and looks visibly pregnant, this may bring up a variety of emotions for you. Some women love their growing and changing body, but many others feel mixed emotions about this.
Second trimester also brings the excitement of feeling the baby move. It’s also common to have strange dreams, be quick to cry, or feel stressed or overwhelmed.
In the final months of pregnancy, it’s common to feel anxious about the childbirth and how a new baby will change your life. The forgetfulness or absentmindedness of the second trimester often continues.
As your baby grows, you will likely feel more tired and uncomfortable, which can cause you to feel more irritable than before.
The “nesting” urge begins in the third trimester, which is feeling pressure to get everything ready before baby arrives. This can add to anxiety and feeling irritable.
Your Partner’s Emotions
Although your partner isn’t experiencing the same hormonal changes, this upcoming major life event and transition can also cause some unexpected emotions for them. They may have new anxieties about your health, the health of the baby, or finances. They may be feeling apprehensive about attending the birth and what their role will be. They may have doubts about their ability to be a good partner and parent.
Many of these worries can be addressed through education, such as prenatal classes, or open conversations with you and your provider (midwife or doctor). It can also be helpful to discuss together how pregnancy and birth will change your body, so your partner knows what to expect. You may want to have conversations about intimacy, especially if sexual activity needs to be limited.
If protocols allow, it can be helpful for partners to attend prenatal appointments so they can feel involved and informed about the pregnancy. Your provider might be able to suggest ways your partner can support you or be involved throughout the pregnancy, birth and postpartum period.
Other ways you and your partner can show each other support include complimenting and encouraging each other, spending time together, and exploring ways to share intimacy that is comfortable. Having open communication about chore-sharing and other household tasks can prevent resentment from building up as your birth approaches.
- It’s hard to think clearly or feel positive when you are feeling unwell and tired. Taking good physical care of yourself, especially getting plenty of rest and sleep, will help to keep troubling emotions in proportion.
- It’s also important to eat healthy meals and snacks, and keep yourself well-hydrated with water.
- Gentle to moderate exercise can help to improve mood. Try to build in some activity every day.
- Reduce other sources of stress if you can, and find ways to boost your emotional wellbeing. Try to deal with worries one at a time, rather than feeling swamped by them. Talking to a trusted friend, and/or your partner can help.
- Journalling, especially writing out things you are grateful for, is shown to improve mood. It can also help to write down all of your worries and try to let go of them.
- Try practicing mindfulness – you could download a mindfulness app on your phone.
- You could watch a funny movie or listen to some music that makes you happy.
When to Worry
It is important to recognize that there is a difference between normal pregnancy emotions and a mental health issue. Always see your midwife or doctor if you:
- Have prolonged feelings of sadness
- Have intrusive thoughts that you can’t control
- Have lost interest in things you normally enjoy
- Find yourself engaging in repetitive patterns of behaviour, like repeatedly washing your hands or checking social media
- Feel worthless
- Feel unable to concentrate or make decisions
- Have difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Have lost your appetite
- Having panic attacks
- Feel morbidly fearful of giving birth
- Have thoughts about suicide
It’s also important to know that partners can suffer from postpartum and perinatal mood disorders as well. So if you notice these signs in your partner, please encourage them to reach out for support.
We hope these tips will help you to have an emotionally healthy pregnancy. It’s so important to be aware of our emotions and our need for increased support and care for ourselves. If you are needing more help and support for your pregnancy, birth, or postpartum period, please reach out to us at Balancing Birth to Baby. We would love to help.