The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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The Many Moods Of Pregnancy
If you find yourself bursting into tears—of sadness or joy—at the least provocation, blame hormonal changes. These are believed to contribute to the emotional ups and downs that occur during pregnancy, says Charles J. Lockwood, M.D., chairman of the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. For example, levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which is known to induce anxiety, increase during pregnancy, peaking at the time of delivery. Progesterone levels also rise, and this hormone affects different women in different ways. For some, it behaves as a sedative (which would explain why some pregnant women feel so sleepy). In others, it promotes anxiety and depression.
Of course, the emotions of pregnancy aren’t all negative. “Some women report increased feelings of calm, optimism and enthusiasm,” psychologist Chambliss says. Here are the primary emotions you’re likely to feel while you’re expecting:
Joy/Excitement If you planned the pregnancy, your happiness probably began the moment your pregnancy test read positive. For 80 percent of women, pregnancy is, overall, a time of joy, positive anticipation and excitement.
Sadness/Regret It’s not unusual to experience a kind of mourning period as you think about the life you are leaving behind. Pregnancy also may stir up feelings of sadness about a parent, sibling or friend who has died and thus can’t share your pregnancy or meet your baby.
Stress This can be a particularly stressful time for many reasons: Your pregnancy was unplanned; you’re facing financial, work or marital problems; you don’t feel well; you’re suffering pregnancy complications; you have a history of miscarriage or premature birth.
Anxiety/Worry It’s normal to feel anxious about your impending new responsibility. You also may feel anxious about your job as you decide whether you’ll return to work after your baby is born. Likewise, if you decide to stay home, you may worry about losing an income and interrupting your career.
A Family Is Born
Every expecting couple worries about whether labor will go smoothly, their baby will be healthy and if they will be good parents. Especially if it’s kept bottled up inside, this anxiety can express itself as bickering or avoidance.
A couple also may wonder how their relationship will change when they become parents. “Both people may be thrilled about having a baby, but there’s also a low-level concern that they will have to share the love,” Chambliss says. The woman may wonder if her partner will help out and provide emotional support for her and if he’s really willing to do what’s necessary to be a good father. And the man is most likely to worry about whether his partner will be so focused on the baby that she’ll pay much less attention to him. The solution is open communication about these fears.
Sex Could Get Sexier
Both partners’ desire levels can change dramatically during pregnancy. Some women withdraw sexually, either because of their growing size or because their libido declines. Others feel aroused in an entirely new way, perhaps because they are enjoying the freedom of intercourse without birth control or because pregnancy is teaching them to enjoy their bodies in a new way. A man may find his wife sexier than ever, or he may be afraid to make love to her for fear he’ll hurt the child. He also may fail to share his wife’s excitement about the baby. “For a lot of men, it doesn’t seem real until there is an actual baby,” Expecting Change author Stern explains.
Your Parents Will Become Grandparents
Expecting a baby can alter a pregnant woman’s relationship with her own parents. “For some women, it’s a wonderful opportunity to develop new family relationships, especially with their mothers,” Stern says. If you have had problems with your parents, pregnancy can facilitate healing, though experts warn that you shouldn’t necessarily expect a reconciliation. Your pregnancy also can invite conflict, particularly if your mother is overly involved and offers endless unsolicited advice. “Pregnant women don’t want their mother to co-opt the experience,” Stern says.