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Psychological Effects of Pregnancy

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A woman’s body experiences several changes during the entire process of pregnancy, both physically and psychologically. It’s not as easy to accept that a new life would be conceived out of your blood. As every human being is different, some may feel more nervous and vulnerable, while some may even experience depression. Not only for women, but it’s also natural for both parents to experience significant psychological change during this time. 

Unlike men, the psychological state of a woman is more dynamic, and varies during every trimester, throughout the pregnancy. Some women are concerned about telling doctors how they feel, as they are afraid of being judged as a mother. But in reality, doctors pay much attention to the well-being of women to eliminate any worry concerning mental health.  

During pregnancy, the body undergoes tremendous hormonal changes. These hormonal changes contribute to the mix of emotions you experience. This also helps you prepare for parenthood, infant-parent attachment, and relationship with your partner. As you establish a new identity as a parent, it is crucial to understand the ups and downs of these emotions. This will also aid in the early diagnosis and treatment of any mental health issue.

Some common emotional changes you may experience are mentioned below:


Hormonal changes during pregnancy can affect the chemicals within your brain. This triggers anxiety. You can’t control everything which makes you anxious, and it may get worse. A certain degree of worry is natural, as the whole process may be entirely new for you. But, if those worries begin to interfere with your daily life, anxiety crops in.

Mood swings

Rapid changes in your hormones are the main reason for your mood swings. One minute you might be thrilled, while the next minute you may be worried. It is completely natural to experience frequent emotional ups and downs during this time.


Pregnancy alters a woman’s brain. As you undergo a lot of change, it is natural to lose your focus. Even if you are very good at organising, and a great multitasker, you may have trouble remembering little things. But all this is temporary. 

Physical appearance issue

As much as gaining the right amount of weight is crucial for your baby’s health, it also causes concern for your physical appearance. You may worry about your looks, stretch marks, acne, etc. This physical transformation makes you feel unattractive and feel depressed. 

Some women enjoy the whole process of pregnancy, while others don’t. In either case, try not to be too harsh on yourself. Talk to your doctor, midwife, or someone you trust, about your feelings and concerns. It might provide you with great comfort. You may get some useful ideas about dealing with the situation better. 

Throughout the three trimesters of pregnancy, you undergo various psychological changes. Let’s take a look at these three stages.

First trimester

During the first trimester, although for weeks you may not look much different, yet you begin to experience several changes. You might experience nausea, tiredness, and much more. There might be a rapid change in your emotions, like frequent mood swings, short-tempered, etc. At this time, your standard emotional highs and lows are amplified, and you may be confused by those feelings. 

All these changes are expected in such a situation. Almost every pregnant woman experiences the same. Not getting enough time to relax every day, and lack of full eight hours of sleep can make your mood worse. If you are under a lot of stress, you may want to tweak it. Try to learn some relaxation methods, like meditation and yoga, to help you deal with it.

Second trimester

You might experience a lighter mood during the second trimester. During this period, i.e. from the fourth to the sixth month, a sense of overall happiness develops. Physical discomforts like morning sickness, or exhaustion, which you experienced during the first trimester, diminishes. As your baby bump shows, you get more concerned about your body image, and physical appearance. You may experience low levels of self-esteem and confidence, as you develop excess fat on your body. While these emotions are natural and usually less intense, yet they significantly affect you psychologically. 

These modifications might affect your relationship with your spouse. It is vital that you both spend some quality time together, and maintain your emotional bond with each other. Psychologically also, you might start to feel more dependent on your partner, as your need changes. 

Third trimester

The third trimester is the time when you start preparing for childbirth, both physically and emotionally. This is the time you anticipate the birth of your child, and experience increased anxiety, and concern about delivery. You might experience more physical pain in the neck, leg, and back, which can make your mood worse. With growing discomfort, your frustration level also rises.  

It becomes more important to retain your calm, as all these emotional changes might affect the baby. As the baby starts to develop his/her own identity in this trimester, it makes you feel very special. You may need additional attention from your partner, and family during this time.

Often we get nervous and worried about things we don’t know much, and the fear of the unknown causes great concern. Having good details on anything relevant to pregnancy can make you feel more positive, and in charge of the situation. Understanding the basic psychological changes, occurring during the pregnancy, might help both parents to better understand themselves, and their partners. Throughout your pregnancy, it is very important to regularly visit the gynecology clinic, and talk to your gynecologist about your emotional well-being.

Pregnancy is an experience of transformation, development, and enrichment. On one hand, you may feel stressed and worried, while on the other hand, you also feel proud to give birth to a new life. When you’re pregnant, your baby is exposed to what you do, or experience. This includes the ambient sounds, the food you consume, the air you breathe, and the emotions you experience. If you feel comfortable and calm, your baby develops in a happy and calm atmosphere too. 


Image credit: Freepik

James Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.

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