The heightened emotions that some pregnant women experience can be attributed to hormonal surges and physical changes.
During pregnancy, it’s common to experience a wide range of emotions. Mood changes can be sudden and frequent. Some pregnant women experience major ups and downs throughout their pregnancy, while for others, this is only the case early on. When it comes to emotions, every pregnancy is unique.
The effect of hormones during pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body produces a large quantity of hormones that can affect both your mood and your emotions. Some women become irritable, emotional, worried, angry, or agitated.
The surge in hormones can also make you feel more tired and distracted.
These mood swings are most common during the first 3 months of pregnancy, but they may reappear in the months before you deliver your baby. Since physiological changes can also increase stress levels, adjusting to pregnancy can be emotionally taxing.
Physical and emotional changes
Pregnant women can have all kinds of feelings about their rapidly changing bodies. For example, being visibly pregnant may make you feel proud; you may feel special and fulfilled.
It’s also common to feel less comfortable in your body, especially in late pregnancy. Some pregnant women don’t like to look in the mirror and react badly to comments about their size or weight.
Pregnancy can also limit an expectant mother’s activities. For example, the size of a woman’s belly in late pregnancy can make everyday tasks such as putting on shoes or taking public transportation more difficult. Some women also have to change their eating habits or sleep schedule. These changes can be frustrating, so it’s natural to start to long for your old body back.
Pregnancy can also cause all kinds of aches and discomfort. As a result, some mothers become preoccupied with finding effective relief.
Fertility treatments are a risk factor for anxiety during pregnancy. Furthermore, a pregnancy that comes after a long period of infertility can come with intense emotions. The couple is often exhausted by years of disappointment and loss.
Ambivalent feelings about pregnancy
Sometimes, an unplanned pregnancy creates ambivalence, which in turn can lead to guilt.
Learning about a pregnancy, whether it was planned or unexpected, is always a shock.
The novelty of pregnancy can bring great joy to some women; for many, feeling life growing inside them is exciting. Hearing the baby’s heart and feeling it move also trigger powerful emotions. Some mothers feel that they are building a real bond with their baby, which creates a deep sense of accomplishment.
While motherhood is usually considered a positive experience, it’s normal to have negative feelings during pregnancy as well. For instance, some women may feel unsettled by all the changes that come with pregnancy and the arrival of a baby. They wonder about how the baby will change their lives and affect their relationship.
Some women also experience ambivalence during pregnancy, even if it was planned. This is a normal response to preparing for the new role of being a mother. It’s natural to feel some regret and to grieve the loss of your life before children.
Mothers-to-be need to have the opportunity to talk about their emotions without fear of judgment. Talking to your spouse, friends, or other pregnant women can help you realize that you aren’t the only one struggling with certain questions.
Most expectant moms also worry about how their pregnancy is progressing and whether their baby is healthy.
Some worry that they won’t be able to give their baby proper care. They wonder about what kind of mother they’ll be and about their parenting skills. They look back on their own childhood and the bond they had with their mother. As these memories resurface, they may bring up intense emotions.
Some women also fear that they won’t have the financial means to provide for their child.
To learn more about common concerns among pregnant women, read our fact sheet on the topic.
The second trimester: Positive feelings take the lead
Many mothers-to-be say that the second trimester is the most enjoyable, as their emotions during this time are less intense. This is the trimester when a pregnant woman is often referred to as glowing
. Conversely, women often notice a rise in emotional stress during the final weeks of pregnancy. The aches and pains
that accompany this stage of pregnancy, as well anxiety about childbirth and their future responsibilities as a mother, are all contributing factors.
When should I worry?
If you are worried about your emotional state and how you feel about yourself or your pregnancy, or if you are distressed, talk to your doctor or another health care professional immediately.
Look out for the following symptoms:
Persistent mood swings (lasting more than 2 weeks without interruption)
Frequent inability to fall asleep or feel tired
Inability to eat or frequent lack of appetite
Memory issues, difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
Lack of energy, especially after the first trimester
Constant concern about the baby’s development
Frequent sadness and crying
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or hopelessness
Attempts to isolate yourself from your loved ones
Dark or suicidal thoughts
These symptoms may be a sign of prenatal depression or an anxiety disorder. It will be easier to treat you if you reach out as soon as possible. There are a number of treatments that can help you feel better, with or without medication. Your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of each one with you and your partner.
Most emotional changes should resolve after delivery. If they don’t, talk about it with your doctor or midwife.
Things to keep in mind
The hormones and changes that occur with pregnancy can bring up new emotions.
Although pregnancy is often seen as a positive time, it’s natural to experience negative feelings.
If you’re very worried or distressed about these new emotions, speak to a health care professional.
Scientific review: Nicole Reeves, psychologist, CHUM Birthing Centre
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: March 2021
Public Health Agency of Canada. “Emotions in pregnancy.” www.canada.ca
HealthLinkBC. “Emotional Changes During Pregnancy.” www.healthlinkbc.ca
Leonard Lowdermilk, Deitra, et al. Maternity and Women’s Health Care. 10th ed., Elsevier Mosby, 2012, 975 pp.
Zephyr, Lory. Maman en construction : petit chantier de réflexion sur la maternité. Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2018.