We all know pregnancy involves some significant physical changes. (My uterus will grow to how many times its normal size, you say?)
But hormonal shifts are also a hallmark of pregnancy — sometimes even serving as the cause of physical symptoms (hello, sore boobs) — and it stands to reason that these fluctuations can cause changes in brain chemicals that regulate moods.
Some women experience a range of emotions from happiness to sadness — and everything in between. So if you’re having crying spells over the slightest problems — spilt milk (proverbial or actual), a sentimental commercial, or a kind gesture — no worries. What you’re going through is completely normal.
Here’s what you need to know about crying during pregnancy, as well as a few tips to ease those pesky mood swings.
Even if you’re a naturally sentimental or emotional person, you might notice yourself crying more during pregnancy. And if you’re typically one who rarely sheds a tear, uncontrollable outpourings of emotion might take you by surprise.
Although emotions are a normal part of pregnancy, it helps to understand the reasons for weepiness.
Every woman is different, so some women may have crying spells throughout their entire pregnancy, whereas others only cry during the first trimester.
First trimester crying isn’t unusual, considering this is when a change in hormone secretion takes place. Higher levels of both estrogen and progesterone during the first trimester seem to be responsible for some mood swings, marked by irritability and sadness.
Plus, pregnancy is a major life change. And for this reason, combined with the rapidly changing hormones, crying during the first trimester might be due anything from extreme happiness to anxiety or fear that something will happen to the baby.
Second and third trimesters
Hormonal shifts can continue into the second and third trimesters, so crying spells may happen during this time, too.
Your body is changing rapidly, which can also increase anxiety levels. As a result, some women may feel more on edge in the second trimester. If so, normal everyday stresses and frustrations could also trigger crying spells.
And when you’re nearing the finish line, there’s probably a lot on your mind. You have to complete the nursery, prepare your finances, and the realness of labor and delivery might make you a little panicky.
You’re about to have an added responsibility — whether it’s your first child or you’re adding to your family. This can be a stressful time, and if emotions run high, crying spells might follow.
While a change in emotions and crying spells are a normal part of pregnancy, crying can also be a symptom of a more serious mental health concern such as depression.
Telling the difference between normal pregnancy mood swings and depression can be tricky. As a general rule of thumb, depression will trigger other symptoms, too — not just crying. These symptoms include:
- difficulty concentrating
- loss of appetite
- loss of interest in favorite activities
- feelings of worthlessness
- feelings of guilt
- sleeping too much
- sleeping too little
- thoughts of harming yourself or others
Sometimes, depression during pregnancy is fleeting and resolves on its own. But if symptoms last for 2 weeks or longer, speak to your doctor.
Having an occasional crying spell isn’t likely to harm your unborn baby. More severe depression during pregnancy, however, could possibly have a negative impact on your pregnancy.
One 2016 study suggested that mental health issues like anxiety and depression during pregnancy may increase your chances of preterm birth and low birth weight. Another 2015 review of studies found a similar connection between mental distress and preterm birth.
If you’re depressed, you may not take care of yourself during pregnancy as much as you would otherwise. If you’re not eating enough or getting enough nutrients, skipping prenatal appointments, or not moving around, your baby may not be getting adequate care.
It’s important to remember that depression is not your fault, and neglecting your health is a side effect of untreated depression rather than a conscious choice.
We know you would never intentionally bring harm to your pregnancy. All this is just to underscore the importance of talking to your doctor, because there are treatments — ones that are pregnancy safe — that can help.
Depression during pregnancy also increases your risk of postpartum depression (PPD), which can affect how you bond with your baby. PPD is common and nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s important to talk to your doctor so they can help.
Unfortunately, you can’t control hormonal shifts during pregnancy. But you can take steps to help ease the effects of these shifts, which may relieve — or at the very least, reduce — crying spells.
- Get enough sleep. Too little sleep can increase your stress levels, making you more irritable. Aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Be physically active. Ask your doctor about gentle exercises during pregnancy to boost your energy and improve your mental health. Go for a walk, swim, or take a low-impact aerobics class.
- Talk to other moms or pregnant women. Getting support, either online or from a local group, may also ease some of the fear and anxiety associated with pregnancy. By talking to other moms, you can share advice, relate personal stories, and provide each other with emotional support.
- Don’t overwhelm yourself. Yes, preparing for a new baby can be overwhelming and stressful. But don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself, or that you have to do everything before the baby arrives. This type of pressure can lead to frustration, guilt, and crying spells.
If you’re depressed, talk to your doctor. Certain antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy. Plus, treating depression during pregnancy may lower your risk of developing PPD after baby is born.
Pregnancy can make you an emotional wreck, but you’re not alone. Rest assured that crying spells are perfectly normal, and this part of pregnancy probably isn’t anything to worry about.
But if you feel that crying is more than hormonal or if you have mental health concerns, make an appointment with your doctor — they are your best advocate when it comes to your health and the health of your baby.