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Pregnancy Emotions: Hormones, Mood Swings, and Why am I crying?

Until I realised that the emotional rollercoaster I was on was probably something to do with pregnancy, I actually started to think I’d gone mad.

I can honestly say, until the onset of pregnancy hormones, I have never in my life:

  • cried in the car when a song reminds me of a sad movie
  • felt personally distraught when a character is killed off on a tv show
  • become overly emotional about a 30 second commercial (or a movie preview…)
  • got seriously angry at being unable to find the remote control, and having to stand up to turn the tv off
  • cried for absolutely no reason while walking the dogs
  • been so tired I didn’t want to leave the house all day, and then later got upset that I didn’t achieve anything all day
  • felt just moments away from tears, at any given moment, day or night

Yet, in the last month especially (my 3rd) I have felt so incredibly emotional, having mood-swings, days where I feel completely depressed, and just generally hormonal. I had to find out what was going on.

What’s happening to our emotions and hormones when pregnant?

The science of pregnancy emotions

During pregnancy, three hormones rise significantly: oestrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin, (hCG). Changes in these hormones also cause changes in your neurotransmitters, the chemicals tell your brain how to regulate your moods.

How changes in pregnancy hormones make us feel

The changes to hormone levels, and subsequent effect on neurotransmitters will vary hugely between each person, but a few emotional side-effects are the most common. The most frequent are mood swings, which can come in the form of depression and anxiety, or just an intensity of emotion. Oestrogen and progesterone are the two pregnancy hormones known to cause moodiness and sensitivity to crying. For most mums-to-be, these changes begin at around the 6 to 10 week mark in the first trimester, possibly cooling off during the second, and returning in the last couple of months of pregnancy.

What we can do to combat the side-effects and emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy hormones

The hardest thing about dealing with pregnancy emotions is probably to accept that you are not in control. Your mood swings are completely unrelated to what’s actually going on in your life, and fighting your uncontrollable emotions is more exhausting than simply accepting and embracing them. However, there are a few things you can do to alleviate your mood-swings.

  1. Exercise. As you probably know, exercise encourages your brain to release endorphins, the naturally occurring painkiller deployed whenever you are subjected to pain or stress. Even light exercise like a walk or gentle yoga can help with your mood – both simultaneously helping to clear your brain too.
  2. Snack. Your blood sugar levels will also have an effect on your mood, so you definitely don’t want to get hungry during this emotional time. Of course, healthy, nutritious food is best for both the baby and your mood regulation – filling up on sugarry treats will only put your body under more strain, as it tries to regulate sugar highs and lows, on top of everything else.
  3. Rest up. Think about how children get emotional and stressed when they’re over-tired. When you’re lacking sleep, everything is a little harder to deal with, including dealing with your emotions. Get as much sleep as you can each night, and don’t be afraid to nap during the day too.
  4. Let it out. While you might feel like a complete nutter letting tears roll down your face in the car, in front of the tv, or even out for a walk, chances are nobody else will even notice, and having a good cry can actually help you. If you do happen to break down in public, two simple words “I’m pregnant” will completely explain.

Finally, if I can give you one further piece of advice, from experience, it’s not to put yourself in a position when you’re more likely to become especially emotional. For me, that was going to the movies to see A Star is Born. Granted, I didn’t know it was going to be the world’s saddest movie, but I probably could have found out prior to going. Suffice to say, this incredibly emotional movie didn’t do me, or my pregnancy hormones any favours.

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