Last updated March 2012. Planned review date: March 2014
Mood swings and pregnancy
When you find out you’re pregnant, you know that life will never be the same again and you may have very mixed feelings about this. Don’t worry – you’re not alone. It’s normal to have ups and downs during pregnancy and most women experience mood swings at some stage.
Coping with your feelings as well as the other demands of pregnancy can be difficult. This can be worse if you feel you’re not getting enough support or you’re on your own, especially if your pregnancy wasn’t planned. Money worries are common in pregnancy and, if you have any family problems, these can bring added stress when there’s a baby on the way.
While pregnancy can be an incredibly exciting time, you may also be worried about how you’ll cope with becoming a mum, whether you’ll be a good enough parent or how your relationship with your partner will change. Lots of women are frightened about the idea of giving birth and also about the rapid changes going on in their bodies.
Pregnancy hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, are likely to be partly to blame for your emotional highs and lows, and you may be more affected in the first three months.
Your body is changing rapidly and you may be feeling unattractive as it expands to accommodate your pregnancy. If you were used to regular rigorous exercise, you may find having to slow down frustrating (click here to read about exercising in pregnancy).
Other stresses in your life, such as work or family illness, may make the extra demands of pregnancy feel more difficult.
All these issues can be an emotional challenge. But knowing the causes and expecting the mood swings should help you (and your partner, family and friends) to deal with them.
What if I really can't cope?
If your mood swings and bouts of feeling low last for more than two weeks, it’s very important to tell your midwife or doctor, as these symptoms might be a sign of a more serious problem.
Symptoms of depression and anxiety affect about 10 to 15 out of every 100 pregnant women. Some women are more likely to develop mental health problems than others (see right) and a few will need more care and treatment than usual because of the effect their illness can have on their health and their baby.
Click here to find out where to go for help.
NHS Choices [accessed September 2011] The pregnancy care planner, General pregnancy topics, Your feelings, www.nhs.uk/Planners/pregnancycareplanner/Pages/Feelings.aspx
Gavin N I, Gaynes B N, Lohr KN et al (2005) Perinatal depression: a systematic review of prevalence and incidence, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 106, 1071–1083
NHS Choices (reviewed 2011) Worrying about the birth www.nhs.uk/Planners/pregnancycareplanner/pages/Worryingaboutbirth.aspx [accessed September 2011].
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