Emotions during pregnancy

People experience strong emotions in pregnancy, both positive and negative. Especially in a first pregnancy, feeling a new life growing is exciting and awe-inspiring, totally unlike anything else. Parents often say it takes a while for the reality to sink in. Feeling the baby move or seeing scan pictures can suddenly change people's feelings.

Several people said finding out the sex of the baby helped them bond, and scans helped their partner share the pregnancy more closely. (See more experiences of scans in pregnancy). One woman described how being pregnant with her first child was “scary” but “you could rub your belly and talk to them. And they were sort of like, I would, you know, they could hear your voice. And they sort of like, I would tend to kick back sort of like, like, “I could hear you” sort of thing”.

Most people find that any tiredness and sickness improve in the second trimester, and they can physically enjoy feeling pregnant and watching their body change. Some people said they felt quite relaxed and even healthier than usual, and that their hair and skin was in really good condition. One woman enjoyed pregnancy so much she did not want it to end. 

People looked forward to meeting their new baby and being parents. One father said he suddenly felt more grown-up and responsible. Some people felt they needed to take more care of their own safety for the baby's sake, for instance driving more carefully.

People who had problems in an earlier pregnancy or with their own health sometimes worried that something else might go wrong, but also felt joy and hope at the prospect of new life.

Going ahead with a pregnancy when you know there is something seriously wrong with the baby's health can be very difficult and emotional, but one mother who knew her baby might not live still wanted to embrace the feeling of being pregnant and wanted other people to acknowledge that she had had a baby. (See also 'When something is wrong with the baby' and the Healthtalk Antenatal screening website.)

Alongside the enjoyment and excitement, anxiety or low mood are common in pregnancy. Sometimes this can be minor worries or just a temporary feeling, but in some cases can be quite severe and troubling*.

Some people felt uncomfortable with the changes to their body and appearance, and just wanted it all to be over. People who felt very sick or had a lot of back pain sometimes felt resentful. (See 'Sickness and hyperemesis' and 'Pain and discomfort').

Many parents said that until the baby was born and they could see it was healthy, they felt uneasy that something might go wrong. This was especially true for people who had had previous problems such as miscarriage or a baby with health problems; one mother described how she coped with anxiety by just focussing on a week at a time. Psychological counselling also helped. 

Another was worried because other members in her family have had children with disabilities, and had heard marrying one's cousin could increase the risk. (There is only a small added risk from first cousin marriage, unless there is a family history of abnormalities caused by a recessive gene - in this case there is a higher risk that a couple who are related to each other will both be carriers and that their baby will have the condition).

Of course, things do occasionally go wrong, and you can read more about people's feelings in these circumstances elsewhere on the site, for example 'Bleeding and miscarriage', 'Rarer complications', 'When something is wrong with the baby', and on the Healthtalk Antenatal screening website.

But many people who had no special reason to feel anxious also wondered whether the baby would be all right.

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Several said they did not rush to buy clothes or equipment, because it might be 'tempting fate'. Because you cannot see what is happening to the baby, feeling it move is usually reassuring, but occasionally people panicked if the movements felt different or less frequent.

Fears about the birth itself were also common, including worries about pain and possible complications.

Listening to other people's 'horror stories' could be frightening, and several people felt it was not a good idea to share these in detail with friends who were still pregnant. (See also 'Thinking about where and how to give birth').

In a first pregnancy, it can be hard to think beyond the birth and imagine life as a parent. Some people did not want to think about it. Others worried whether they would love the baby and whether they could be a good parent.

There were also worries about how life would change and about taking on responsibility for another person. In a second pregnancy, people may feel calmer and more prepared, but it can still be hard to imagine how a second child will fit into the family. (See also 'Relationships and sex').

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*For information and support on abuse see The National Association for
People Abused in Childhood

*For information on antenatal and post natal mental health see NICE guideline CG45 

Last reviewed May 2017.
Last updated
May 2017.


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