We’ve all seen movies where the pregnant character is on the couch crying and laughing at the same time while stuffing her face with ice cream. It’s always funny until it’s happening in real life to you!
While it’s a funny dramatization that makes for good entertainment on TV, any woman who has been pregnant will tell you that crying/laughing at the same time is not far from the truth (and neither is binge eating!) One of the most jarring realizations for a first-time mom is the sudden change in her mood. Pregnancy emotions are wild, unpredictable, and sometimes sudden. A commercial with cute puppies can have you sobbing for hours, and if it does, know that it’s totally normal to experience these swings. (Thanks, hormones!)
As estrogen and progesterone send wave after wave of needed nutrients and building blocks to your baby, they are also the very same culprit for your crazy emotions. When you are experiencing a mood swing, remind yourself that this is a chemical reaction to pregnancy and you are not the sum of your emotions.
While we often think of crying and laughing as what defines a “mood swing,” those are not the only mood swings you can experience. You can feel anxious, irritable, sad, mixed, blah, happy, or grumpy. Combine these feelings with a foggy pregnancy brain, and many moms don’t even know they are irrationally irritable until their partner or loved one points it out to them!
But not all mood swings are negative. Many women experience high sex drives in the second and third trimesters and other women who typically struggle with depression find that they are the happiest when pregnant. And while in the first trimester you might feel tired, the second trimester can bring energy, happiness, and a high libedo followed by a week of gloominess. Each season and phase are different and you most likely will not experience the same moodswing for your whole pregnancy.
Another change that affects mood swings is the dreaded foggy brain. You might lose your house keys (while holding them), or drink your water and then wonder where it all went, or forget your pet’s name. Don’t panic, it’s part of the process and it will pass after postpartum!
How Do I Cope With These Emotions?
If you work or have other children to care for, out of control emotions can start to inhibit the way you function from day to day. Here are a few ways to help cope with the mood swings and feel better during the day.
Communicate. While no one has the right to be rude and mean to others (even when pregnant,) let your co-workers and daily members know how you are feeling, and ask for understanding if you act irritable or grumpy. This can save relationships at work, and it also lets others help you navigate the day. You can’t expect people to not get on your nerves if you don’t share how you are feeling. And remember, you are not your emotions so don’t feel embarrassed to communicate.
Focus on TLC. If your emotions are inhibiting you from functioning in your day it might be because you need to slow down and take time to care for yourself. Ask your support person for help if you need childcare or tell your boss if you need a day off. Nap, drink water, do a spa treatment, do something that makes you laugh, and do things you enjoy to help you unwind. Vitamins like Omega 3 fatty acids may help with mood swings, so make sure your diet is balanced (as your cravings allow), drink lots of fluids (try pregnancy tea if you are sick of water), and get some sunshine. Many women who are indoors all day long can see the sun out the window, but they are not IN the sun getting Vitamin D3. After getting sunshine, many women see a marked difference in their mood, so don't underestimate the power of fresh air and sun! Take time to reconnect with nature and feed your body with good food, and take time for you.
Sleep. If you have other children, sleeping is always a struggle. But your body is undergoing the construction of a human, and that is not a small effort! You need sleep to heal, build, grow, and to prepare for delivery! Even Superwoman has to take breaks and refuel sometimes! Ask someone to watch your pets or other children so you can sleep, and if you need help staying asleep, there are safe over the counter sleep aids for pregnant women--just ask your doctor first!
Keep A To Do List. To combat brain fog and overwhelming feelings that trigger anxiety, try keeping a running list of tasks and to do’s so you don’t forget. This will help you feel organized and will allow you visualize how much you have already accomplished. Use your calendar app or buy a paper one to write down appointments as you make them so you won’t forget!
Motivational Thinking. Post sticky notes reminding yourself that you are a good person and that you will make a wonderful mother! Feeling bad and BEING bad are two different things. Many women find that positive and motivational notes help them throughout the week.
Here are a few to get you started:
-I am enough
-I am not my emotion
-I am doing something important and I add value
-My baby loves me
-I can do this
Be Flexible. It’s okay if you need to rest and say “no” to events and responsibilities. Give yourself grace to focus on you and your mental wellness.
Lastly, talk to your doctor. If you had depression before pregnancy, tell your doctor as this can affect you during (and severely) after pregnancy. Most women who struggle with severe depression in pregnancy don’t seek help, which then leads to substance abuse, which can lead to infant death, birth defects, high risk pregnancy, and Many women find that taking natural progesterone cream helps with postpartum (and even during pregnancy) depression. But be sure to talk to your doctor or homeopathic doctor to see if this could be an option for you.