Emotions during pregnancy: the science behind it

Many pregnant moms find themselves running up and down emotional hills and valleys, and they can't quite figure out why, but fear not! There are some perfectly reasonable explanations for why moods can change so much during pregnancy.

Why might I experience strange emotions and emotional swings during my pregnancy?

You may be one of the lucky ones that feels emotionally stable or pretty much the same way you did before you got pregnant. However, many women experience strange moods and mood swings that can occur unexpectedly and seemingly without reason. While these experiences may seem random, there is science to explain the cause. You may have heard that hormones cause mood swings, but this idea is only partially true. While you’re pregnant, you will have rising levels of estrogen and progesterone to help you carry Baby. This rising level of hormones influences your brain’s neurotransmitter activity, and your neurotransmitters cause you to feel certain emotions. It is really the changed neurotransmitter activity that causes mood changes.

What do neurotransmitters do?

Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that relay signals to control the body and tell it to perform necessary functions. Some neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, influence our emotions. Serotonin regulates mood and keeps the body calm, but hormone changes that affect how serotonin works could cause emotional ups and downs.

Your surroundings and hormone levels

Emotions and hormones are complementary to one another. Your body’s reaction to surroundings will produce specific hormones to make you feel certain emotions. Pregnancy can especially cause a whirlwind of emotions because your hormones change due to the feeling of protection over your baby, but your hormones also change naturally as your baby grows. The different methods for hormone change can cause more unpredictable emotional swings.

Read more
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. "First trimester pregnancy: What to expect." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 4/22/2014. Web.
  • Simon N Young, Marco Leyton. "The role of serotonin in human mood and social interaction: Insight from altered tryptophan levels." Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior. Volume 71, Issue 4, Pages 857-865. Web. 4/2/2015.
  • "What are Neurotransmitters?" Neurogistics. The Brain Wellness Program, n.d. Web.
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