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Why have I been so moody lately?
It's common to have mood swings during pregnancy because of stress, fatigue, and hormonal changes that affect your levels of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain). And, of course, there's also the broad range of feelings you may have about becoming a parent.
Everyone responds to these changes differently. Some moms-to-be experience heightened emotions, both positive and negative. Others feel more depressed or anxious. Many pregnant women find that moodiness flares up around 6 to 10 weeks, eases in the second trimester, and then reappears as their due date approaches.
Pregnancy can be a stressful and overwhelming time. One day you may be overjoyed at the thought of having a baby, and then just as quickly wonder what you've gotten yourself into. You may be worried about whether you'll be a good mom, whether the baby will be healthy, and how the cost of adding a child to your household will affect your family's finances. And you may worry about how having a baby will impact your relationship with your partner and your other children – like if you'll still be able to give them the attention they need.
Even if your pregnancy was planned, at times you may have mixed feelings about what's ahead. That's not surprising, considering the high expectations placed on parents. And the pressure starts even before the baby is born. You may be constantly wondering: Am I reading the right books? Am I buying the right products? Will I know how to stimulate my child's development properly and build his self-esteem?
In the meantime, you may be feeling unattractive as your body changes, and you may be concerned about putting on too much weight or looking "fat," especially if you aren't able to exercise as much as you'd like.
The physical symptoms of pregnancy, such as heartburn, fatigue, and frequent urination, can also be a burden. It's not uncommon to feel like you've lost control over your body and your life during this time. All these concerns may take your emotions on a roller coaster ride.
How can I manage my mood swings?
Try to remind yourself that emotional upheaval is normal right now. That said, making a conscious effort to nurture yourself can help you stay on an even keel during turbulent times.
- Take it easy. Resist the urge to tackle as many chores as you can before the baby comes. You may think you need to stencil bunnies on the nursery walls, reorganize all the closets, or put in serious overtime before going on maternity leave, but you don't. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list instead. After all, pampering yourself is an essential part of taking care of your baby.
- Bond with your partner. Expressing how you're feeling while reassuring your partner of your love will go a long way toward nurturing your relationship. Make sure you're spending plenty of time together, and even go on a vacation if you can. Strengthen your connection now, so you can really be there for one another after the baby comes.
If you're single, do something to nurture your relationship with your friends and family, or look for a support group for single moms-to-be. This will provide vital support for you now as well as after your baby is born.
- Do something that makes you feel good. This might mean carving out some special time for you and your partner. Or it might mean taking time alone to do something just for you: Take a nap, go for a walk, get a prenatal massage, or see a movie with a friend.
- Talk it out. Air your worries about the future with understanding friends. Just putting your concerns into words often helps you get a handle on them or gives you insight into solutions. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your partner, and make it a two-way street: In addition to pouring out your feelings, listen to your partner, too.
- Manage your stress. Rather than let the frustration in your life build up, find ways to decompress. Get plenty of sleep, eat well, exercise, and have some fun. Identify sources of stress in your life and change what you can, such as trimming your to-do list. If you still find that anxiety is creeping in, try taking a pregnancy yoga class, practicing meditation or other relaxation techniques, or consulting a professional counselor.
What if I can't shake my moodiness?
If your mood swings are becoming more frequent or more intense, or if they last longer than two weeks, talk to your practitioner and ask for a referral to a counselor. You may be among the 14 to 23 percent of women who battle mild to moderate depression during pregnancy.
If you notice that your anxiety is interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. And if your mood swings become more frequent and intense, and you have difficulty sleeping, you might be having symptoms of bipolar disorder, a condition in which you alternate between periods of depression and mania.
If you suspect that you have any of these conditions, it's crucial to get professional help and treatment while you're pregnant. Research has shown that untreated emotional health problems can affect your baby's physical well-being and increase your risk of preterm labor and postpartum depression. Both psychotherapy and medication can be very effective for treating these conditions so that you and your baby can be well during pregnancy and afterward.