Your emotions might not necessarily only revolve around excitement when you’re pregnant. Find out why this happens and how to manage emotions in pregnancy.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy along with your own personal circumstances can lead to strong emotions and moods (Bjelica et al, 2018). While partners don’t experience hormonal changes they can have strong emotions to deal with during pregnancy too (Finnbogadóttir et al, 2003).
Here we explain how the hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect your emotions and how you can enhance your wellbeing.
Hormonal changes in pregnancy
As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, their body begins to prepare for safeguarding and maintaining the pregnancy. This increases levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone in their blood. Read more about what these hormones do in your body in our article about pregnancy hormones.
Apart from sickness and tiredness, it's common to have mood swings and feel tearful or easily irritated (Society for Endocrinology, 2018). Once the body has adapted to the higher levels of these hormones, the symptoms usually wear off. However, some women will experience them throughout their pregnancy.
Emotions in pregnancy
Aside from emotional ups and downs caused by rising hormone levels in the first three months, the feeling of growing a new life can be exciting and awe-inspiring. It is also common to feel anxious, vulnerable and overwhelmed by the big changes that pregnancy and a new baby will bring (Bjelica et al, 2018). This can be particularly true for parents who are pregnant after previous loss or following fertility treatment.
Even if you feel excited by the pregnancy, you may have some unsettling thoughts. Perhaps there will also be some difficult decisions to make. Many women have questions that they ask of themselves. They might doubt their ability as a mother, how their relationship might change or how they will manage financially (Öhman et al, 2003). Other normal worries include:
- What if I do something accidentally to harm the baby, like eating or drinking something I shouldn’t?
- Should I stop having sex while pregnant?
- What will the birth be like?
- Will my life go back to normal afterwards, for example can I return to work?
Partners can also experience similar concerns during pregnancy (Finnbogadóttir et al, 2003).
Coping with emotions during pregnancy
It can be hard to think clearly or feel positive when you are feeling worried and tired. Taking good physical care of yourself, especially getting plenty of rest and sleep, may help to keep troubling emotions in proportion (MIND, 2020).
Gentle to moderate exercise can help to improve mood and general fitness in pregnancy, helping you prepare for labour and avoid some complications of pregnancy (Prather et al, 2012; ACOG, 2020). Try to build in some activity every day. Avoid contact sports or any strenuous exercise, particularly if you weren’t active before your pregnancy (NHS, 2020b).
Finding out about benefit entitlements, midwife appointments, how you can eat healthily in pregnancy and what you might prepare for your baby can feel overwhelming. So having a to-do list can help you get these things organised in your mind. This NHS to-do list contains lots of useful information. Maybe share your to-do list with your partner or a supportive friend or relative; they might be able to offer you support in ticking some items off that list.
Talk it out
Bottling up concerns could increase your anxiety. Discussing your feelings and worries with someone who makes you feel comfortable can help you regulate your emotions and limit worry and anxiety (Torre and Lieberman, 2018).
Talking to other expectant parents may also reveal that you are not alone in your experiences, as well as providing peer support (McLeish and Redshaw, 2017). Joining an NCT antenatal course or a ‘bumps and babies’ group can give you an instant support network. You can find out here what local NCT activities are happening in your area.
Live in the moment
It may help to give yourself a rest, focus on your unborn baby and take time to enjoy the pregnancy. Or it might help to spend some time thinking about and doing things that aren’t related to the pregnancy. Maybe that includes indulging in your favourite hobby, catching up with friends or watching the new box office hit at the cinema.
Practising mindfulness techniques can be another useful way of managing big or changeable emotions (MIND, 2020). Using mindfulness could help you stay in the present moment, and provide you with other skills to help you deal with stressful situations and anxieties in pregnancy (Dunn et al, 2012; Matvienko-Sikar et al, 2016).
Some people find listening to music and singing helpful in calming emotions and enhancing wellbeing in pregnancy (Chang et al, 2008; Wulff et al, 2021). Writing about your emotions and noting down how you feel about stressful events can also be a good tool for managing stress and anxiety (Ullrich and Lutgendorf, 2002).
Research shows that for some pregnant women, massage can be good for reducing anxiety and boosting mood (Field et al, 1999; Field et al, 2004). Also, attending antenatal yoga classes has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, and support you in preparing for birth (Kwon, 2020). Check that your massage therapist or yoga instructor is trained in working with pregnant women to ensure that your treatment is safe and effective.
When you might need more support with your emotions
It is important to recognise that there is a difference between regular pregnancy emotions and a mental health issue. Pregnancy can be a time when people experience mental health issues for the first time (NHS, 2021).
Around one in eight women experience depression or anxiety when they’re pregnant (NICE, 2014). And around one in ten dads experience antenatal depression (Paulson and Bazemore, 2010).
Find out more here about the range of mental health symptoms that can occur and how to get support.
This page was last reviewed in March 2022.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Best Beginnings have a range of videos on emotions in pregnancy and after birth for mums and dads.
Healthtalk has videos of women talking about their experiences of early pregnancy:
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