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pregnancy

mood swings in pregnancy

6 minutes

17/12/2021

There are no two ways about it, pregnancy is a rollercoaster ride, as your body goes through all sorts of changes in preparation for both carrying and giving birth to your baby.

Among the things that can be the most difficult to contend with – both for yourself and others – are the mood swings you might experience.

These feelings of frustration and even anger can be easily explained – they’re the result of the sudden surge of hormones your body is going through. But because they’re mental rather than physical and often happen out of the blue, they can feel more alien to expectant mothers than more obvious and well-documented changes such as increased weight gain, spider veins and morning sickness.

Here, we go into a bit more detail about why mood swings in pregnancy occur and share stories and tips from WaterWipes mums who’ve been through them.

  1. Is it normal to be angry during pregnancy?

  2. Mood swings in pregnancy: why do they happen?

  3. When do pregnancy mood swings start?

  4. How to control pregnancy mood swings

  5. First, second and third trimester mood swings: is there a difference?

Is it normal to be angry during pregnancy?

Yes, don’t worry, it’s completely normal to be angry during pregnancy. It’s also normal to be a bit sadder than usual. Oh yes, and happier too. In fact, you could find yourself experiencing all three of these emotions in a matter of minutes, and this is normal as well.

Symptoms of mood swings in pregnancy include:

  • Irritation/frustration

  • Anger – often out of the blue

  • Feeling tearful for no obvious reason

  • Extreme happiness

  • Anxiety

  • Stronger than usual moods generally

The mood swings were definitely the hardest part of the first few months of pregnancy for me. The morning sickness I could just about deal with; what I couldn’t deal with was the guilt I felt after yelling at my husband for everything from over toasting my breakfast to leaving the toilet seat up. We were both very relieved when my hormones calmed down during the second trimester – and still laugh about ‘my diva phase’ now.” – Madison, mum to Elena, six months

Mood swings in pregnancy: why do they happen?

Not every mum will blow hot one minute and cold the next during pregnancy, but lots do, and there’s a very simple explanation for it.

During the early stages of pregnancy, mums-to-be experience a tsunami of hormonal surges, as their bodies pump themselves full of two very important hormones: estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones are responsible for lots of good things in pregnancy, such as safeguarding your baby until the placenta takes over, giving you that famous ‘glow’ everyone talks about and making your nails grow. But at high levels, they can also be quite pesky, causing unwanted side effects such as morning sickness, fatigue and rapid fluctuations in mood.

In addition to hormonal surges, sleep deprivation can also play its part in mood swings in pregnancy. Even when you’re not expecting a baby, it’s impossible to see reason sometimes when you’ve only had a few hours’ sleep.

This is magnified when you’re pregnant, especially during the first trimester, as even though you might think that you’ve slept all night, because your body is doing so much extra work in preparation for the next nine months, you can still find yourself feeling exhausted – and potentially more irritable than you would usually be. You may be working and have other children to take care of too, adding to your inability to think clearly.

Sleep deprivation is also common in the third trimester, when a little bit of anxiety kicks in for many mums, as well as common third trimester symptoms such as Braxton Hicks and more general aches and pains. All of which can contribute to a not-so-great night’s sleep – and, consequently, a muddled mind the next day.

When do pregnancy mood swings start?

Mood swings can be one of the first signs of pregnancy for many. If you’ve been trying for a baby and find yourself sobbing uncontrollably at your favourite reality show (when you’re normally an ice queen when it comes to emotions), maybe take a pregnancy test. You never know!

“I consider myself a pretty level-headed person normally, so when I started feeling irritated at my lovely elderly neighbour over the way she’d parked her car, then ferociously angry at my partner for losing the remote control, I knew something was up. I took a pregnancy test at a friend’s suggestion and lo and behold – pregnant. It was a relief to know I wasn’t going mad.” – Riley, mum to Zac, one

How to control pregnancy mood swings

Mood swings in pregnancy are normal, but there are a few things you can try to take back control...

  • Roll with the punches

    Accepting that moods swings in pregnancy are incredibly common, and that you’re definitely not alone in feeling them, is the first step to overcoming these often-baffling ups and downs.

  • Healthy snacks

    Although you may be tempted to reach for a box of chocolates or tub of ice cream when you’re feeling low – or high – during pregnancy, regular healthy snacks such as nuts or cheese are much better for stabilising your moods. Sugary treats, while delicious, provide only a brief pick me up, and you may even find yourself feeling worse afterwards, as your blood sugar comes crashing down.

  • Keep communicating with your partner

    One of the most difficult things about mood swings, is that you don’t usually know you’re going through them until they level out again, which can be especially tough on your partner as they’ll likely be bearing the brunt! Just make sure you keep talking to one another, and that your partner understands that what’s happening is a normal part of pregnancy and largely beyond your control. They’ll soon be able to spot the signs and hopefully learn some tricks to help you feel more yourself.

  • Put yourself first

    This will be alien to lots of expectant mums, especially if you’re already a parent, but during pregnancy it really is okay to put yourself first. Nap when you can, eat regularly and try to exercise a few times a week, even if it’s just a walk. The latter, especially, will flood your body with mood-levelling (and lifting) endorphins, leaving you feeling great.

  • Keep your appointments

    Make sure you don’t miss any check-ups with your health visitor during your pregnancy. And if you must cancel for whatever reason, rearrange. They’re there to not only check your body is functioning as it should be, but to listen to any worries you might have and help you resolve them. Use their wealth of experience!

    “My health visitor was a real rock for me throughout my pregnancy, especially during those first few months when I seemed to take leave of my senses in terms of my moods. She explained these wild swings were completely normal and gave me some tips for getting on top of them. Nothing complicated, just long baths and long walks, which both really worked.” – Carmen, mum to Billie, three months

While mood fluctuations in pregnancy are usually completely normal, if yours feel persistent, overly intense or are interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor – they’ll be able to reassure and guide you.

First, second and third trimester mood swings: is there a difference?

Mood swings in pregnancy tend to take place during the first and third trimesters, when your estrogen and progesterone levels are soaring, with a brief respite in between as your body settles itself down.

The key is not to beat yourself up about these changes in mood. You’re about to bring a new life into the world – and that’s a big deal, so give yourself a break, and if you want to treat yourself, treat yourself.

If you found this guide helpful, you might like to read some of the other features on our Parenting Hub? For example…

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