Being pregnant comes with many changes as your body is growing to make room for your new womb-mate (your boobs, your hair, that giant belly). But one thing that also changes during pregnancy is your mood.
Pregnancy mood swings can happen during all the trimesters (postpartum, too!). Who can you thank for this early shower gift? Fluctuating hormones are happening in your body as it prepares for the miracle of life.
They can be scary, confusing, and unsettling. But mood swings during pregnancy are also totally normal. Here’s what you need to know and how to get through them.
Your hormone levels change big-time during pregnancy. When you get pregnant, the amount of estrogen and progesterone in your blood increases. While these hormones help prepare your body for pregnancy, it can also affect you emotionally.
Some women are especially sensitive to changes in progesterone, which can cause an increase in emotional instability. Your moods can change all throughout pregnancy and may find yourself becoming irritable, moody, and tearful.
Mood swings can start to happen pretty early in pregnancy, but they can also be a normal part of non-pregnant life as a response to stress, lack of sleep, or a mood disorder.
Here’s what might be triggering your pregnancy mood swings (with those pesky hormones in tow).
- Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes. In pregnancy, women can become more sensitive to changes around them. This can cause them to react more suddenly (even unnecessarily) to things that aren’t such a big deal to other people, simply because of those revamped hormones.
- Pregnancy symptoms. Pregnancy can be hard work, especially if you experience side effects such as forgetfulness, morning sickness, and fatigue. It can be hard not to get upset or feel irritated when you’re constantly throwing up or feel super tired.
- Delivery and motherhood worries. Worrying about whether you will be a good parent, your baby will be born healthy, and how you will cope with the birth? Yeah, that stress and anxiety can affect your mood.
At each chapter of the baby’s development, your moods can totally vary. Here’s what you might be feeling during each trimester.
First trimester: During the first 12 to 13 weeks, it’s common to be worried about having a miscarriage. You may find that you panic more about what you’re eating, and what you may be doing right or wrong.
You develop this immediate instinct to protect your baby, and could panic about seeing blood or having cramps in your stomach, constantly fearing the worst.
Second trimester: It can be a relief when you get through the first trimester. After having that first scan and knowing your baby is OK can also alleviate a lot of fears. But, moms can still be afraid of late miscarriages and health problems in general.
Third trimester: The third trimester brings lots of new fears mainly around the birth. How painful it is going to be? Will it result in an emergency C-Section? These are all very common, valid worries. And, it’s important to have support for these fears before the birth.
All trimesters: Found yourself crying over a cute dog in the park, or literally over spilled milk? Yes, that’s totally normal.
First trimester crying is common as your hormones change. Hormonal shifts continue into the second and third trimesters, so randomly crying is a common occurrence throughout pregnancy.
First trimester: Anxiety is common throughout all the trimesters of pregnancy. In fact, 8 to 10 percent of women experience perinatal anxiety.
In the first trimester, anxiety about miscarriage and bodily sensations from your growing uterus may happen. Anxiety over whether you’re eating right, drinking enough water, and exercising enough are also common.
Second trimester: Pregnant women may find themselves getting anxious about how much their bodies are growing. Are you too big or too small? Does that indicate a problem?
You may also experience their first kicks during the later stage of the second trimester, but these can be affected by whether you have a posterior or anterior placenta. The latter makes it harder to feel the baby’s movements. This can be anxiety-provoking to new moms.
Third trimester: At 28 weeks, women are asked to monitor their babies movements. It’s easy to become obsessive over this, and panic over whether they’re feeling their baby enough. Plus wondering whether the movements are normal and when to seek advice.
Other common worries near the end of pregnancy center around the birth, and the fact life is going to be very different with a new baby.
All trimesters: Anger can happen throughout each trimester. Women may find themselves especially angry during the first trimester, as their hormones first start to rise.
Pregnancy can also be frustrating since it comes with many unpleasant side effects (and can be hella uncomfortable). This can cause a lot of irritability and anger over things that don’t seem such a big deal to non-pregnant people.
What’s the deal with forgetfulness and pregnancy brain?
Believe it or not pregnancy-induced brain fog (aka pregnancy brain or baby brain) is a real thing.
Studies have found your brain actually changes during pregnancy. While preggo, your noggin increases activity in the side of the brain associated with emotional skills, and your brain-cell volume decreases during the third trimester.
It may cause you to forget appointments, remember where you left your phone, or what you opened the fridge to look for (pickles?).
A lack of sleep may also make you feel zapped of energy, which your brain needs to stay more focused.
Low self-esteem and body image struggles
First trimester: During the first trimester you’re getting used to the fact you’re creating a life inside of you. Your body doesn’t typically physically change much during the first 12 weeks. However, you may experience some bloat and get upset when you can no longer button up your jeans.
Second trimester: Many women start to “show” when they’re around 14 weeks pregnant. This can be a very exciting or difficult time, especially if body image issues were present before pregnancy.
You may also struggle with seeing other pregnant women who are bigger or smaller than you, and may find yourself comparing yourself to them.
Third trimester: The third trimester is generally when you’re at your biggest, and it can become super uncomfortable. Some women may start to feel self-conscious, which can affect intimacy.
You may also struggle with comments such as “You’re so big!” and “Wow! Are you expecting twins?” These can have a negative effect on confidence and make you wonder whether you’re actually “too big.” The change in weight can also be upsetting for some women even though it’s completely normal.
Nesting… it’s a thing!
Woke up with the sudden urge to clean and get everything ready for your baby? You’re in nesting mode.
Results from a 2013 analysis of two studies found that women’s nesting behaviors peaked in the third trimester.
The pregnancy hormone estrogen could be a factor in the sudden urge to prepare everything for your new arrival, but it doesn’t necessarily mean labor is near.
Pregnancy can be emotionally and physically draining so it’s important to take care of yourself. Here are some tips to combat your mood swings and make you feel more like yourself.
- Have some “me” time. Take naps when you need to, say no to plans you don’t have the energy for, and make the most of things like (not too hot) baths.
- Talk it out. Allow others to give you support, and talk about your worries with people you love and trust.
- Avoid scary pregnancy books and blogs. There are always going to be horror stories out there. Avoid things that scare you into thinking something bad is going to happen.
- Don’t Google every single symptom. The internet is full of misinformation that can make you panic. If you experience anything that doesn’t seem normal, call your midwife or doctor.
- Join some online moms groups for support. Talking to people who are going through exactly what you are can be helpful during challenging times of pregnancy.
- Allow yourself treats without feeling guilty. Don’t feel guilty for giving into your cravings (within reason). Sometimes it’s what your body needs.
- Eat healthy when the hunger strikes. Sugary foods can make you crash and generally make you feel not-so-great. Try snacking on nutritious foods that will make you feel good.
- Take a birth course to help ward off labor scaries. This can help you feel more confident about labor and help you prepare for what’s to come.
- Relax and get moving. Try some meditation or yoga to keep your mind at peace. Exercise is good for you during pregnancy and can help your mood.
- See a mental health professional. If you find yourself struggling with your emotions, there are professionals who can help you manage your emotions and anxieties about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
You’ve most likely heard of postpartum depression (aka depression after childbirth), but you can also have depression during pregnancy. One study found almost 20 percent of postpartum depression actually starts during pregnancy.
Undiagnosed and untreated depression during pregnancy isn’t good for mom or baby, and isn’t the same as your hormonal mood swings.
Symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:
- feeling down most of the time
- not being bothered with anything
- being unable to concentrate or make decisions
- feeling tearful a lot of the time
- feeling restless and agitated
- losing your self-confidence
- feeling worthless or guilty
- having suicidal thoughts
If you’re feeling distressed or depressed, it’s important that you contact your midwife or doctor as soon as possible so that they can refer you to a mental health professional.
You’ll likely be referred to a perinatal mental health specialist, and will be monitored more closely during and after your pregnancy.
Keep in mind that mood swings are a totally normal part of pregnancy (even though they can be annoying AF).
Make sure your partner and family are aware of your feelings so they can help. But, if you feel like your mood swings are getting worse, or you think you may be experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, talk to your health provider ASAP.
Don’t suffer in silence just because mood swings are “normal.” Seeking help can help get you through it. Finding ways to help your mood swings sooner rather than later, will also help you have the best experience becoming a new mom.