Pregnancy is a time of emotional ups and downs. Many pregnant women find they cry more easily and with less provocation than they did before they became pregnant. If you feel like you're drowning in tears during every touching commercial or if you're taking small slights much harder than you did before pregnancy, you're in good company. Crying jags are more likely to occur at certain times of pregnancy, when change in hormone levels is highest. If you're experiencing deeper depression, tell your doctor.
Hormones During Pregnancy
Three hormones rise significantly during different parts of your pregnancy: estrogen, the dominant female hormone produced by the ovaries; progesterone, the hormone responsible for maintaining the uterine lining, produced by the corpus luteum early in pregnancy and the placenta late in pregnancy; and human chorionic gonadotropin, better known as hCG, produced by the placenta. Changes in hormone levels cause changes in neurotransmitters, chemicals that relay signals to your brain to regulate your moods. Research published in 1999 in the journal "Psychoneuroendocrinology" found that higher progesterone levels in the final two months of pregnancy correlated with more mood swings.
Pregnancy, even if planned, can bring a host of new stresses into your life that can affect your emotional status. Relationship stresses, money concerns and worries about what kind of a parent you'll be can all cause mood swings. If you have serious stresses in your life, talking to a counselor may help relieve some of your fears and anxieties.
The most common time for mood swings based on hormonal changes occurs between weeks 6 and 10 in the first trimester of pregnancy, and again during the third trimester, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
As many as 10 to 15 percent of women experience mild or moderate clinical depression during pregnancy, Harvard Medical School warns. If your mood swings last for more than two weeks at a time, contact your doctor for help; counseling or medication may be options. Depression during pregnancy may increase your risk of experiencing postpartum depression, with around 25 percent of cases of postpartum depression actually beginning during pregnancy. Severe mood swings can also indicate bipolar disorder, which often first manifests itself during the childbearing years.
- American Pregnancy Association; Mood Swings During Pregnancy; May 2011
- BabyCenter: Mood Swings During Pregnancy
- Harvard Mental Health Letter; Depression During Pregnancy and After; September 2002
- Babyzone; Calming the Storm: Understanding Your Pregnancy Hormones; Lisa Cooper
- "Psychoneuroendocrinology"; Pregnancy, the Postpartum, and Steroid Hormones: Effects on Cognition and Mood; J.G. Buckwalter, et al.; January 1999