Riding the Hormone Roller Coaster

How to overcome pregnancy hormone changes and mood swings.


Your co-worker's habit of talking too loud on the phone has always annoyed you; now it makes you want to throttle him. "What's that all about?" you may wonder. The answer is simple: Hormone levels fluctuate throughout pregnancy, sometimes causing wild mood swings.

"An increase in progesterone is often associated with negative mood changes such as depression, and estrogen is associated with greater irritability," says Michael Silverman, Ph.D., a psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Throw in hCG, the "pregnancy hormone" that causes nausea and distractibility (particularly in the first trimester), and you have a recipe for crankiness. Here are Silverman's tips for quieting the ride:

1. Stay aware. When you feel the world is coming to an end, remember that it's normal to have emotional meltdowns during pregnancy. Discussing them with someone close to you will help you temper your feelings.

2. Cool off. Before picking a fight, write down your feelings and wait three hours. You can even write an e-mail to the person you're angry at and put it in your draft box. When you revisit your thoughts later, you'll probably realize you were overreacting. However, if you find yourself doing this more and more often, Silverman points out, it could be a symptom of depression.

3. Work out. Exercise will make you feel better physically and will also release happiness-inducing endorphins. Swimming, prenatal yoga and walking are all good choices.

4. Eat well. Maybe a jelly doughnut is your idea of the perfect pick-me-up, but in fact, your mood will benefit more from foods that are good for your body. Particularly effective: omega-3 fats, found in oily fish (such as salmon), canola oil, walnuts and fortified eggs. Some studies show omega-3s can improve brain performance and alleviate depression.

5. Communicate. The people in your life won't feel as hurt if you regularly remind them that you're feeling more emotional than normal and that they shouldn't take it personally.