The early weeks of pregnancy are fragile—and confusing. Here, the answers to your questions.
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Just hours before I discovered I was pregnant, I had an early-morning dream that I was expecting redheaded twin boys. In my subconscious state, I felt an entire spectrum of real emotions — curiosity, fear, joy — about the changes that lay ahead. I awoke discombobulated and decided to take a home-pregnancy test. It was positive. Forty weeks later, my husband and I welcomed into our lives a son with distinctly auburn-tinted hair.
Maybe it’s not surprising that the dream prophesied my pregnancy and my baby’s hair color (if not a multiple birth). My husband and I were trying to conceive, and red hair runs in my family. But remarkably, the dream depicted the emotional mix of excitement and anxiety I would feel during my pregnancy. It also marked the beginning of a highly charged dream life during the next nine months.
Is It the Hormones?
Expectant mothers often have intense dreams, experts say. If you usually remember and ponder your dreams, it may not seem that you have more dreams while pregnant, but you may be startled by their vividness and emotional punch. The typical images in pregnancy dreams can be by turns pleasurable and distressing — but always memorable.
Elevated hormones are widely considered the main cause of these notable dreams, but there are no medical studies to prove this, according to Leslie Hartley Gise, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, who works extensively with pregnant women. What is known is that hormones help drive our emotions, and the high levels of estrogen and progesterone during pregnancy can take us on quite an up-and-down ride, Gise says. These waking moods can stir up dream material, often delivering a nighttime whammy.
Moreover, pregnancy is a time in which we are caught in a swirl of emotions, fueled first by the diagnostic tests of early pregnancy, then by the pending birth and finally by the weighty responsibility of parenthood. All those feelings, Gise says, can influence our dreams.
The Dream Scheme
Pregnancy dreams don’t always fall into neat categories, but experts have noticed several familiar themes, according to Berkeley, Calif., therapist and author Gayle Peterson, M.S.S.W., Ph.D., who specializes in pregnancy and early-family development. Following are four of the most common types of pregnancy dreams, along with a basic interpretation of each:
Birthing dreams We often undergo traumatic labor and delivery in birthing dreams, and our newborns may look bizarre or defective in some way. My son’s day-care provider dreamed that she delivered an unruly 2-year-old, which left her feeling overwhelmed about beginning parenthood with the “terrible twos.” Our fears about childbirth and child- rearing are at the root of such anxiety dreams, experts say.
“I think birthing dreams are your mind’s way to practice parenting in case you don’t have the ‘perfect’ baby,” says Judie Quill, C.N.M., M.S., a certified nurse-midwife who teaches obstetrics and gynecology residents at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver.
These dreams also may be your subconscious mind’s way of telling you to put more effort into preparing for labor and delivery, thus enabling you to cope with pain and possible complications, Peterson says.
Later in pregnancy, as you become more prepared for the big event, your birthing dreams may be less frighten-