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Keeping sane during the hormonal rollercoaster

Keeping sane during the hormonal rollercoaster

Pregnancy can be a real roller-coaster ride of the emotions - highs and lows and everything in between. Some women appear to 'bloom' during pregnancy; they appear full of life, happiness and vitality whereas other women are tearful and apprehensive.

These feelings can often be very intense. Being forewarned about them can help women and their partners to understand what is going on, and how to deal with them if they need to. Some women have unstable moods and feelings of depression, often for no apparent reason. None of these emotional responses is 'right' or 'wrong'. Pregnancy is an intense experience; women experience huge hormonal changes and face a big life-changing event.

Even before conception there may be concerns and anxieties. Perhaps pregnancy is taking longer to happen than expected. Then there are natural concerns about the big changes a baby brings to a couple, their relationship with each other, and to their work, family and social lives. Worries about the timing of the pregnancy, and about possible financial stresses in the future are common. There may also be concerns about carrying the pregnancy to the full nine months, especially if the woman has had a previous miscarriage, or if there is a family history of miscarriages.

When pregnancy occurs the overwhelming emotion for many couples is excitement as they wait for the arrival of their baby. There may be an element of surprise, even if the pregnancy has been carefully planned. Often mixed with these feelings there will be doubts and apprehension about the big change about to happen in their lives. The unknown direction that a new life takes is both thrilling and scary for new parents. The pregnancy may not feel 'real' at first. But it will gradually become more and more real, perhaps most dramatically when the baby's heartbeat can be heard at your check up around week 12.

Hormones

One of the important causes of mood swings that many women experience in pregnancy is the huge hormonal upheaval that takes place in their bodies. It is thought that the hormones progesterone and oestrogen play a large part in mood swings and they tend to happen most frequently in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

Middle pregnancy

Later on in the pregnancy, between about 3 and 6 months, the extreme swings of mood usually decline as the levels of hormones become more constant. This tends to be the quieter period, emotionally. Women may experience the 'glow' of pregnancy when they feel better and have more energy. Women may worry their partners by using this energy to prepare for the baby - decorating the baby's bedroom, for example.

The risk of miscarriage is much lower during this stage of pregnancy and many women experience a high when they begin to feel their baby move - usually at about week 20. They may start to feel even more excited about the pregnancy as they begin to perceive the unborn baby as a separate individual within. The excitement may show itself in terms of asking family and friends lots of questions about pregnancy and childbirth, by reading books and checking out websites.

Late pregnancy

In the last 3 months, the pregnancy is usually more obvious to everyone. Women may be offered seats in a crowded room and other assistance. Some women may want such help and accept and enjoy it. But others may feel angry and offended as if they were seen to be helpless. Physical discomfort grows and the pregnant woman may find it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in. This may make her tired and irritable. She may not feel attractive and sexy, and may need physical affection like cuddling and kissing as reassurance. Some women may find their apprehensions return as the date of the birth gets closer. The prospect of labour may be daunting, and the couple may begin to worry about the health and wellbeing of the baby during labour. However, by the late stages of pregnancy, the apprehension a woman may be feeling about the birth is usually outweighed by the prospect of being parents. Added to this, the woman may start to feel that she wants her body back.

Partner reaction

Pregnancy is an emotional time for you and your partner. The golden rule is to talk about how you are feeling - voicing worries, concerns and anxieties often goes a long way to relieving them. Also try chatting to other mums-to-be in your antenatal classes - knowing that other women are also finding that they are 'hormonal' will also help you to cope. Take time for you and your partner to relax together and enjoy this wonderful, intimate and very exciting time.

how can I involve my partner in our pregnancy