How to Handle Mood Swings During Pregnancy
One minute, you’re giddily shopping for tiny onesies and planning your babymoon; the next, you’re weeping uncontrollably over the fact that life as you know it is about to change forever. Mood swings during pregnancy are extremely common, says Alex Robles, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, in New York City.
However, there isn’t much research on the topic. “They’re not very well studied, since there is so much variability from one person to another,” Robles says.
Why Do We Get Mood Swings in Pregnancy?
Hormones are involved, of course: The pregnancy hormones estrogen and progesterone can affect the parts of the brain that regulate mood, making you feel more irritable and anxious, says Tara Scott, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn and medical director at Forum Health, in Akron, Ohio. Early in your pregnancy, morning sickness can make you feel miserable at the same time that you’re adjusting to the new changes in your life.
Your sleep may change greatly in the third trimester, as you find yourself getting up several times during the night to use the bathroom and struggle to find a comfortable position in bed. Exhaustion can make anyone cranky, but add in other common pregnancy side effects like heartburn, sciatica (pain along the sciatic nerve, from the lower back down one or both legs), and constipation, and it’s no surprise you find yourself more irritable than usual.
What to Do About Pregnancy Mood Swings
Although some degree of sadness or moodiness is to be expected, there are also some things you can do to reduce mood swings in pregnancy. Try these strategies:
- Get plenty of sleep. You may feel like you have to get everything done before the baby arrives—setting up the nursery, organizing baby clothes, sending out announcements—but exhaustion can sap your energy and make pregnancy mood swings worse, Robles says. Prioritize a good night's sleep and allow yourself to take naps when you need extra rest. Give yourself permission to sleep, even if that means not having everything ticked off your to-do list before the baby arrives.
- Find ways to manage stress. Scott suggests trying activities that help relieve stress, such as talking to other pregnant people, relaxation exercises, such as meditation and breathwork, or taking a prenatal yoga class. “I would always recommend trying nonhormonal, noninvasive mind-body therapies first,” Scott adds.
- Talk to a mental health professional. Although mood swings are common, feeling depressed all the time is not—and can be very serious. An estimated 7% of pregnant people will suffer from prenatal depression and need more support. “If you’re feeling down and it's lasting day after day, and especially if you have any thoughts of harming yourself, you need to speak to your doctor to get help,” Scott says.
- Talk to your doctor about medication. Certain antidepressant medications are considered safe during pregnancy and can help some people who have prenatal depression or anxiety to feel better and more equipped to care for their baby when the time comes. As always, never take medication without talking to your doctor and discussing all your options.
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