Emotional changes in pregnancy

Pregnancy can be emotionally challenging, but there are things you can do to cope with any anxiety or stress.

Mixed emotions

Whether your pregnancy was planned or unplanned, it’s natural to have mixed emotions about it. You may swing from excited to worried, or happy to sad and back again. Pregnancy hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone can contribute to giving you this mix of emotional highs and lows, especially in the first three months.

“I did start to doubt myself, thinking ‘Am I doing something wrong? Is my body not right?’ It can be quite daunting thinking, ‘Do women literally glow through nine months of pregnancy?” 

Sarah, mum of one. Read more...

Pregnancy worries, fears and stress

Having a baby changes everything and it’s very common to worry about the future. Many women ask themselves questions like:

  • How will I cope with giving birth?
  • Will my baby be OK?
  • Will I be a good mother?
  • Will this change my relationship with my partner?
  • How will we manage for money?
  • Can I go back to work or education afterwards?
  • Will I still have a life of my own?
  • Will a previous pregnancy problem happen again?
  • Will something that I’ve done/eaten/drunk harm the baby?

“It always felt as if the appointments were a long way apart. Because it was my first baby, I constantly wanted reassurance that everything was okay and worried all the time that something would go wrong."

Esther, mum of one

How your changing body affects your feelings

Pregnancy changes your body, which can also affect how you feel. Some women love the physical experience of being pregnant and feel strong and positive. Others don’t enjoy pregnancy or like the way they look and feel. For example, you may have concerns about how much weight you’re putting on and how long it will take to lose it. Or you may be feeling sick or tired, which can all make you feel fed up.

Try not to be too hard on yourself. We are constantly bombarded with seemingly perfect images of happy, healthy women having the time of their lives during pregnancy in glossy magazines and on social media. But the reality is often very different. Not everyone enjoys how pregnancy affects their body and makes them feel.

It’s natural to feel a bit anxious about how pregnancy will change your body. But it’s important to ask for help if you are having negative feelings that won’t go away or that are too much to cope with. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you have any concerns or worries about your changing body.

Sex, pregnancy and your emotions

It’s completely natural for your sex drive to change during pregnancy. Some women enjoy having sex while they’re pregnant and others don’t. This can sometimes cause anxiety for couples, especially if one of you wants to have sex and the other doesn’t.

There are many reasons why your sex life may change in pregnancy, such as:

  • your pregnancy symptoms, such as sickness or tiredness, are putting you off
  • you feel physically uncomfortable during sex
  • you feel self-conscious about your changing body
  • you or your partner are concerned that sex will hurt the baby
  • your partner sees you as a mother, rather than ‘sexy’ (or you are concerned that they do)
  • you or your partner are feeling anxious about parenthood.

Keep in mind that it is perfectly safe to have sex during pregnancy, unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to. Having sex will not hurt your baby.

Talk to your partner if you are worried about your sex life. It may help you both if you can talk about your feelings about sex, how they’ve changed and why. Talking together now can give both of you the chance to air any concerns or worries you may have. You may be able to defuse any tension and reassure each other. You may also be able to find other ways of being intimate with each other that doesn’t involve sex.

You can also talk to your midwife if you have any concerns about sex during or after pregnancy.

Coping with pregnancy worries and stress

Don’t be hard on yourself if you are anxious and stressed about these sorts of things.

You may have expected to feel excited and happy throughout your pregnancy, but no one can feel positive all the time. There are many reasons why some women don’t enjoy being pregnant. It doesn’t mean it was a mistake to get pregnant or that you won’t love your baby.

Try not to feel guilty about feeling down at a time when some people expect you to be happy. How you feel is how you feel and many people will understand what you’re going through.

“I felt really reluctant to get any help from anybody because I felt like I was being stupid. I have a lovely partner and a very supportive family unit and in hindsight I should have asked for help.” 

Kate, mum of one

Here are things you can do to help yourself get through it:

Share your worries

Many women find that it helps to talk to someone they trust about what’s bothering them. Talking to people about how you feel can be a huge relief and help remind you that you’re not alone. Some women use online pregnancy forums. You’ll probably find that other people are having similar experiences and you may get some good ideas about how to deal with any problems.

You may also find it helpful to talk to your midwife or doctor about how you feel.

Don’t let the worries take over your life

Stay positive with our top tips for looking after your emotional wellbeing in pregnancy.

Tackle stressful issues one by one

It’s harder to cope with pregnancy worries if you have other difficult things going on in your life. For example, you may not have a partner or any family or friends nearby. If you’re feeling stressed, try to break your worries down and tackle them one at a time, starting with the ones you have some control over.

There are several interactive mental health tools and apps in the NHS library that can help you cope with stress or anxiety.

Find out the facts and options

Sometimes we get anxious and stressed about things we don’t know much about and the fear of the unknown gets the best of us. Getting good information about everything pregnancy-related can help you feel more confident and in control. Here are some ways to find out what you may need to know.

 

If you are worried about...

 You could...

Your own health or your baby Talk to your midwife or doctor.
Going into labour, giving birth, pain Find out all about birth and your options for pain relief here or by going to antenatal classes.
Money and work Find out about maternity rights and benefits and financial help for new parents at Maternity Action or Gov.uk
Coping as a single parent Find advice and support from Gingerbread
Miscarriage, stillbirth, or coping with pregnancy after losing a child Tommy's has advice and support around pregnancy loss here. You can also look at the Sands website and The Miscarriage Association for support

 

If you have practical problems that you are worried about, it’s worth mentioning them to your midwife or doctor. They may know of local organisations that can help you sort things out.

Get help and support if you need it

Although it’s normal to have periods of feeling worried or low when you’re pregnant, some women have feelings that don’t go away and this can be a sign of something more serious.

It can be really difficult to accept that you’re feeling low at a time when everyone expects you to feel happy and excited. But try to remember that mental health problems in pregnancy, such as depression and anxiety, are common, so you’re not alone. Tell your midwife or doctor how you feel. They can help you find the right treatment and support so you can take care of yourself and your baby.  

 

Find out more about getting help and support with mental health.

 

Read more

Sources

NHS Choices. Sex in pregnancy https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sex-in-pregnancy/ (Page last reviewed: 30/01/2018. Next review due: 30/01/2021)

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (February 2017) Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/patients/information/maternalmental-healthwomens-voices.pdf

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Last reviewed on October 19th, 2018. Next review date October 19th, 2021.

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Comments

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 5 Apr 2017 - 12:56

    I am 36 weeks pregnant and got very bad sores I between my legs suffer really bad with piles struggle to get out of bed I have been accepted for a c section but not heard owt and can't handle it any more in pain constant when I walk and she. Baby kicks I have other children never have I been like this before and need to get some advise on how to get the them to do the c section by next week please help as never felt like this and need my baby out now ac

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 6 Apr 2017 - 11:38

    Hi, So sorry to hear that you are so uncomfortable. The best thing for you to do is to speak to your midwife about your symptoms and your concerns. Your obstetrician will have to weigh up the risks of early delivery as there is evidence that babies born before 39 weeks by caesarean section are more likely to be admitted to neo natal unit for breathing difficulties. Best wishes to you and try to keep as active as you can in these last days of your pregnancy.

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