You probably weren't expecting to literally glow the second you got pregnant, and you most likely even braced yourself for the nonstop peeing, the foot swelling, the possibility of stretch marks suddenly appearing in odd places...and of course, the dreaded morning sickness. But no one expects to flat out hate being pregnant. For tons of mamas-to-be, pregnancy isn't all belly kicks, guiltless overeating, and free foot rubs from the hubby. In fact, according to a recent poll of pregnant Bumpies, 27 percent of them say pregnancy...well, kinda sucks.
To get to the bottom of it all, we asked Dr. Shoshana Bennett ("Dr. Shosh"), clinical psychologist and author of Pregnant on Prozac: The Essential Guide to Making the Best Decision for You and Your Baby, to give us the lowdown on why you might be feeling this way and what you can do to cope.
What's going on?
If you're experiencing dramatic emotional outbursts, and fits of crying and anger, you can blame it on one main culprit: yup, your hormones. Your progesterone and estrogen levels are changing drastically right now, as are other hormones, like relaxin (which helps to soften pelvic ligaments for delivery). It’ll all level out a bit during your second trimester, but the extreme moodiness could return with a vengeance toward the end of your third trimester.
But it's not all hormones. Women who say they hate being pregnant may attribute their general misery to psychological factors too. Dr. Shosh notes that moms-to-be often have tons of new (and not always so positive) thoughts floating through their heads during pregnancy, and all can play key roles in affecting their happiness. For one, there's the notion that pregnancy is supposed to equal voluptuous beauty — and if you’re not feeling so beautiful, well, the whole idea of the “glow” seems like a farce, and that's enough to piss anyone off. There’s also the pressure some women feel to live up to this mythical "perfect mom" standard, perfect not just in actual parenting but in losing the baby weight ASAP too. We’d like to clear something up right now: Save for women like Heidi Klum (whose body miraculously seemed to get hotter with each kid), that “perfect mom” just doesn’t exist.
To add to that, it’s common for pregnant women to start to feel detached from their bodies, says Dr. Shosh: “As your belly gets bigger, it’s almost like your body doesn’t belong to you anymore.” Sound familiar? Sure, maybe other pregnant ladies don’t mind the fact that everyone from the mailman to the lady in the grocery store suddenly wants to touch their belly — but not you. And guess what? That’s okay.
How can you get through it?
Remember that pregnancy only lasts nine months. Keep reminding yourself of that fact. After that, you can kiss the queasiness, the uncomfortable bloat, the embarrassing gas, and the ever-present feeling of a baby sitting on your bladder good-bye. (Now, that’s a comforting thought…) In the meantime, Dr. Shosh suggests adopting an attitude of “whatever happens, I’ll get through it.” Empower yourself.
Never feel guilty for the way you feel. For many women, admitting that they hate being pregnant makes them feel ungrateful or unappreciative to even be able to be a mother, so they either keep quiet about how they feel or get down on themselves as a result. But Dr. Shosh says that’s not the right attitude to have. “Hating pregnancy and being a good mother have absolutely no connection,” she says.
Make time for you again. Dr. Shosh urges moms who may feel emotionally low to “make appointments with themselves” — whether it be getting a mani-pedi, enjoying a prenatal massage, or just sitting down to do things you love and make you happy. Scatter little pick-me-ups throughout the week to look forward to.
Surround yourself with people. Okay, being around a crowd of people might be the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling miserable. But trust us, it’s the best thing for you — as long as you surround yourself with the right people. Invite a few girlfriends to lunch or take a walk in the park with your best friend. Keeping yourself busy and social will help squelch many of the negative thoughts before they even have the chance to crop up.
Don’t dwell on bad feelings. Surround yourself with a support group, yes. Throw yourself a pity party, no. Make sure you don’t cross that fine line of venting, only to constantly dwell on the negative.
Keep your sense of humor. Pregnancy comes with its fair share of unsexy symptoms. The best way to deal with peeing your pants when you sneeze or waking yourself up in the middle of the night with atrocious pregnancy gas? Laugh.
When should you call your doc?
Knowing when you're just dealing with normal pregnancy emotions and when it may be something more serious can be tricky, since many common pregnancy symptoms and depression symptoms overlap. So look out for the following warning signs that may mean you’re crossing the line and should talk to your doctor.
Normal: Your mood is up and down, but there is generally a natural ebb and flow to your emotions. There’s some occasional crying, but it’s not extreme.
Not normal: Your mood is by and large down, you’re feeling gloomy day after day, and you have chronic feelings of hopelessness.
Normal: In general, your self-esteem has remained pretty much intact and unchanged since becoming pregnant.
Not normal: Your self-esteem is dramatically low, you often talk negatively about yourself, and you have feelings of guilt. You may often say or think you are going to be a terrible mother or that your partner will no longer want you after the baby arrives.
Normal: Though you may have some trouble sleeping through the night, you’re usually able to fall back to sleep again once you’ve woken up.
Not normal: You have chronic problems falling asleep, have difficulty drifting back into sleep after waking, and may often wake up very early in the morning.
Normal: You get tired easily, but after rest, you’re reenergized.
Not normal: No matter how much rest you get, you’re always exhausted.
Normal: You definitely have normal worries of a mama-to-be, but you look forward to things on a daily basis, and are excited about the birth and meeting your baby.
Not normal: You don’t take much joy in life anymore and are not at all looking forward to baby’s birth (aside from the fact that it means you won’t be pregnant anymore).
Normal: Your appetite has definitely increased since becoming pregnant, and you’re taking the whole eating-for-two thing to heart.
Not normal: You’ve lost interest in food and don’t really have much of an appetite in general anymore.
If you have any of these abnormal symptoms, talk to your doc ASAP about how you’re feeling (and head to Postpartum.net to get more info now). Dr. Shosh offers more advice during her radio show. Learn more at DrShosh.com.