If you’ve ever oscillated between pure, unadulterated joy and complete and utter despair, you can relate to the emotional roller coaster that is pregnancy. It’s a wild ride full of happy highs and lugubrious lows. Buckle up — and stash some tissues for later.
Not every expecting woman will experience these rapid moments of emotive change, but those soon-to-be moms who do fluctuate from fury to fear to felicity will have to learn to roll with the punches — while resisting the urge to actually knock anyone out along the way.
The good news for mamas dealing with ever-changing sentiments: mood swings are temporary. Eventually you will feel like your even-tempered self again. In the meantime, if you want to understand why you might be blowing hot or cold at any given moment, we have some answers — and a few mood-mellowing tips.
There are a handful of reasons you may have mood swings during pregnancy — hormones, sleep deprivation, and nagging anxiety form just the tip of the iceberg.
Rest assured that you are not just being dramatic, there are real physical, physiological, and mental explanations for this seemingly erratic behavior.
Changes in hormone levels
While there are certainly several factors contributing to mood swings, the biggest culprit is a sudden surge in pesky pregnancy hormones. During the early days of gestation, a woman experiences a veritable flood of estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones can do a number on one’s state of mental health.
Estrogen works throughout your entire body and is active in the region of the brain that regulates mood — so it’s no surprise that this hormone is associated with anxiety, irritability, and depression.
Progesterone, on the other hand, is a hormone that helps to loosen your muscles and joints and prevent early contractions. Consequently, it can cause fatigue, sluggishness, and even sadness.
So, yes, a sudden swell of estrogen and progesterone is a recipe for the occasional mama meltdown.
Fatigue and sleep deprivation
First trimester fatigue or late pregnancy sleep deprivation can add fuel to the fickle fire and make it so that anything can send you off the deep end. It’s hard to feel even keeled and upbeat when you’re exhausted to your core.
In the first 12 weeks, “tired” is an understatement. No matter how much sleep you get, you will continue to feel depleted. This can be wearing on your body and mind — especially if you are taking care of other little people, doing your job, and, you know, trying to manage all those other basic life obligations.
Similarly, the end of pregnancy can keep you awake at night. It’s hard to find a comfortable position in bed to accommodate your growing belly, and you are most likely experiencing aches and pains or Braxton-Hicks contractions. Sprinkle on some third-trimester jitters, and it’s no wonder you’re tossing and turning at all hours.
Morning sickness causes intense physical symptoms, but it can have major mental and psychological effects as well. It’s hard to feel like your best self when you’re perpetually in fear that nausea may strike.
It’s never pleasant racing to find a toilet or empty bag to throw up in. With so many inconvenient moments — and the worry you may have to abruptly vomit during business meetings or whilst commuting — it can take a toll on your mood over time.
The stress of wondering if and when your next nausea spell will hit can disrupt your peaceful mindset and give way to rising stress and sadness.
Your changing body could bring you tears of joy or exasperation. Some expecting moms love watching their bellies expand and forms evolve, others feel dismayed watching as their bodies become unrecognizable in a matter of weeks.
The fact that a woman can grow a teeny human is undeniably incredible, but anyone who has ever struggled with body image issues knows that this feat can come with its own set of complicated feelings.
Anxiety and stress
You could be experiencing general anxiety about becoming a parent or welcoming another child into the mix. Stress about life adjustments and finances might have you feeling bitter, worried, or edgy, too.
Mounting anxiety about labor can also make a mom-to-be surly or tense. Fears about delivery are real and rational, but they can escalate to become intrusive.
It’s, of course, natural that you’re going to feel a little cranky whilst perpetually worrying about the pain of contractions or the future of your perineum. There are endless potential complications to fret about, and it can be unnerving for first timers and experienced moms alike.
Furthermore, if you’ve experienced complications or miscarriage in the past, your anxiety is not only understandable, it’s emotionally taxing. Talking to your OB as concerns pop up will help to alleviate some of these nagging nerves.
If you find yourself sobbing at a sappy commercial one minute, and then absolutely enraged over an empty ice-cream container the next, you may be experiencing pregnancy-related mood swings — or perhaps not.
Quickly shifting emotions can be an early sign of pregnancy. Your hormones are suddenly raging, and your inability to control your feelings may catch you off guard. If you suspect you’re pregnant, nerves and anxiety can further drive this response.
If your emotions are all over the place, and you think you might be expecting, the best thing to do is take a pregnancy test. Many women experience similar mood swings before the arrival of their period, so taking a test will give you a definitive answer one way or the other.
No two women have identical pregnancies. While some expecting moms may experience dramatic mood swings, others will feel emotionally stable throughout their nine-month journey. Your mood may even differ between your own pregnancies.
It’s worth noting , though, that women who report premenstrual mood swings tend to experience them during pregnancy, too. A
Those who flip-flop between elation and aggravation will generally feel this emotional push and pull early on in pregnancy, when estrogen and progesterone levels are soaring, and/or late in the third trimester as labor approaches.
Many women will be excited, terrified, and impatient all at once. It’s no wonder your mood may vary, your life is about to change in a very big way.
Not all pregnancy mood swings look or feel alike. You may experience episodes of joviality and moments of sadness. You might get angry over the pettiest problem or laugh uncontrollably over something silly.
You could resent your partner or non-pregnant friends for being able to resume normal lifestyles, or you could have looming anxiety over all the potential “what ifs” of labor and delivery.
If you find yourself happily swept up in getting ready for baby — building cribs, laundering itty-bitty onesies, and child-proofing cabinets and sharp furniture edges, your emotions may be manifesting in nesting behaviors. Nurture that maternal instinct and enjoy this peaceful time of preparation.
Of course, it’s important to distinguish between the normal emotional ups and downs of pregnancy and prenatal depression. While there have been significant strides in helping to identify and de-stigmatize postpartum depression, many women fail to realize that it’s also possible to be depressed during pregnancy.
If you feel perpetually sad, dismayed, or hopeless, it’s critical that you talk to your doctor — for your own health and that of your baby.
Mood swings are a normal side effect of growing a mini-human inside your body (and a small price to pay), but if they’re disrupting your day-to-day life at home, in the workplace, and everywhere in between, there are some strategies you can take to help you better manage them.
If you’ve ever gotten “hangry,” you know that a lack of food can lead to an undesirable outburst. Quiet your inner anger and quell your appetite with healthy, nutritious meals and filling snacks that fuel your body and energize your brain. Sustained energy will help keep you calm and collected.
Exercise is a great stress reliever and mood booster. If you’re feeling unexpectedly blue or crabby, consider doing some light, low-impact cardio, like walking or swimming. Bonus points for outdoor exercise — the fresh air will refresh and invigorate you. Plus, the release of endorphins will encourage feelings of positivity and happiness.
Yoga and meditation are also immensely helpful. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to start — there’s an app for that. You can learn to stretch, move, or just breathe through moments of intensity.
It’s so important to get quality Zzz’s when you are pregnant. While feeling truly rested might seem unattainable during the first trimester, you can try to maximize the shuteye you do get by sticking to a bedtime routine, maintaining a morning schedule, and napping as needed.
As labor nears, do what you can to promote relaxation despite the general discomfort you are likely feeling. Engage in some breathing exercises before bed, and use pillows to prop yourself up in whatever way helps you feel relatively comfortable (remember that side sleeping is best during the third trimester, though).
Finally, keep in mind that if there’s ever a legitimate excuse to nap, now is your moment.
Talk to your loved ones
Make sure your friends and family members understand how you are feeling and what you are going through. Explain to them that you might occasionally snap or react in a surprising way.
Talking about this can set you and your loved ones up for smoother communication should an issue arise.
You could also consider connecting with other expecting moms who can relate to your current status. Join a local community-based group or find your own virtual one via social media.
Feeling more prepared for pregnancy challenges and having support can
Show yourself grace
Pregnancy is tough. Feeling out of sorts emotionally makes it even harder. Don’t beat yourself up if you overreact to a situation, indulge in a tantrum, or are having a melodramatic minute.
Instead, show yourself some grace and kindness, and know these temper tidal waves are temporary. We all need an emotional release now and again.
Talk to a therapist
If you feel like your emotions are taking on a life of their own, if your anxiety is hampering your ability to function, and/or if you are perpetually depressed, you should seek help.
Talk to your obstetrician or a psychologist. Prenatal depression and anxiety are common, and it’s nothing to feel shame over. You should be enjoying this exciting time of life, so take a step to reclaim your happiness by reaching out to a professional.
Mood swings definitely belong on the lengthy list of less than convenient pregnancy symptoms. While you might be taken aback by outbursts of anger, sudden sadness, and spurts of spirited jubilation, know that these big feelings are all a part of the journey — and they’re getting you ready to experience the most overwhelming emotion of all: unconditional love for your new addition.