Managing Anger & Emotions During Pregnancy

Moms to be, have you ever snapped at your partner for suggesting the wrong thing for dinner? Lost your keys, then lost your mind? Are you stressed about nursery décor to the point of fighting and tears?

Gee thanks, pregnancy hormones, you’re a real treat!

Pregnancy is a very special time in a woman’s life, with so many emotions. While we often talk about the joy and excitement of expecting, we shy away from addressing the other feelings. Expectant moms might also experience anxiety, worry, and even anger.

If you want to avoid spending the next nine months feeling like a volcano on the verge of eruption, keep reading. I’m sharing my simple five-step process to managing your anger during pregnancy.

In This Guide

    What To Know About Your Anger

    The most common cause of extreme emotional responses during pregnancy is hormones. As your body changes to support the growing life inside of you, your hormones tend to fluctuate.

    This can lead to more intense feelings, conflicting emotions, and frequent mood swings.

    Another common cause of anger responses during pregnancy is good ol’ stress.

    There are few events in life as life-changing as welcoming a new child into your family. As exciting as it is, the transitions and stress of the unknown can also cause tensions to run high and impact your ability to control your anger.

    When Should I Consult My Doctor?

    Expect a few stress or hormone-induced outbursts of anger over the next nine months. Stress and anger are not only a part of pregnancy but part of any human existence.

    The key is identifying the difference between normal hormonal moods and a more serious situation. The baseline emotional state varies from person to person, so you and your loved ones are key to determining what is normal for you, and what might need to be addressed by a professional.

    Take Note

    If your anger and mood swings are consistently increasing in frequency, intensity or duration – longer than two weeks – speak to your healthcare provider. If your anger is interfering with your relationships or daily life, this may be a sign to seek a referral to a counselor who can address more serious conditions like antenatal depression or anxiety (1).

    Anger And Your Baby’s Health

    Anger and anxiety trigger stress hormones including cortisol and send your body and mind into “fight or flight” mode. A continuous stress response (as opposed to periodic elevations), can trigger an inflammatory response in your nervous system.

    Take Note

    Inflammation has been linked to poorer pregnancy outcomes, including lower birth weight and premature delivery. New research is also now demonstrating a link between elevated stress levels and behavioral issues continuing into the unborn baby’s childhood. (2)

    It may be hard to stop stressing once you know the impact of stress. But remember, stressing about your stress levels and anger will not make them go away. Instead, use this information as motivation to implement some changes to handle your emotions better.

    Managing Emotions During Pregnancy: The Five R’s

    1. Rest

    This is often a hard one for busy moms, especially if you work outside the home and have older children to care for in addition to your growing belly.

    Although it can be tempting to stay up late to get everything done and stay on the go all day long, don’t fall into this trap. It can be incredibly taxing on your body which is already under strain.

    Prioritize your body’s need for rest by aiming for these rest milestones throughout the day:

    • Ten minutes of rest for every hour of being on your feet/activity.
    • A 20-30 minute nap whenever possible.
    • Seven to eight hours of quality undisturbed sleep every night.

    These will help you maintain your energy levels and minimize the physical discomforts of pregnancy such as swelling, back pain, and headaches, so they don’t add to your irritability.

    Here is a great five minute guided prenatal relaxation video to help you rest from yoga and wellness lifestyle experts, Gaiam.

    2. Recharge

    Remember the age-old adage of putting on your oxygen mask before assisting others? They say it on airplane journeys, and it certainly applies to the journey of pregnancy as well.

    The growing life inside of you is literally draining you (and we mean that in the nicest way possible). Be sure to fuel your body frequently with healthy foods, so you have energy throughout the day.

    Remember

    Choosing healthy food over junk will also help you maintain regular bowel movements, and supply your body and baby with all the necessary nutrients for growth.

    Keeping up a regular, mild exercise routine is an important element. Exercise helps to manage your stress hormones, release feel-good endorphins, and alleviate physical symptoms such as constipation and insomnia.

    Aim for the following recharging activities throughout the day:

    • 20-30 minutes of mild physical exercise (gardening, swimming, walking).
    • Small 300-400 calorie, nutrient-dense meals/snacks, five to six times per day (3).

    3. Reconnect

    While you and your partner are both focused on preparing for baby, don’t let your relationship slide. Make time to connect on an emotional level with each other.

    Take Note

    Investing in your relationship with each other now can help you weather the possibly stressful times after baby’s arrival or while you prepare for this big transition in your lives.

    Pregnancy is also a great time to reconnect with yourself and continue to pursue your interests. Taking time for personal hobbies you enjoy enables you to maintain emotional balance.

    Whatever it is – reading, prenatal yoga, painting, 5-10 minutes of meditation in the morning – create those experiences for yourself and make sure you remain a priority on your to-do list.

    4. Remove Conflict and Stress

    Try as much as possible to remove yourself from stressful situations. If you have older kids testing limits or a strenuous job, you can’t just walk away for the next nine months.

    However, you can identify a few isolated conflict-inducing incidents, and choose a different approach to handling them.

    Whether it’s a problematic co-worker or your toddler throwing a tantrum, if you’re upset, it is perfectly acceptable to take a break before you discuss the issue.

    Give yourself a few moments to regain composure, and focus on another activity (walking, reading, deep breaths) to calm you down. (4)

    You may also reduce stress by removing unnecessary items from your to-do list. This might decrease your level of anxiety and overwhelm.

    5. Release

    Release the expectation to be happy and joyful about this pregnancy 24/7. We don’t discuss these negative emotions because we worry that people will think we aren’t excited to be expecting or are taking for granted this blessing in our lives.

    Pregnancy can be difficult! Permit yourself to feel these emotions without judgment.

    Take Note

    Having an honest and vulnerable conversation with a close friend or your partner can often change your perspective.

    Making a list of your concerns, or writing your emotions in a journal, can help you accept the emotions as normal, and give you some relief.

    If you decide to confide in someone else, choose a trusted friend you know will be supportive and empathetic. If you are journaling, then give yourself grace.


    Getting A Grip On Anger

    Our nation is beginning to recognize postpartum depression and anxiety. However, some conditions specifically occur during pregnancy, called antenatal depression or anxiety. They are less known but affect 7 to 20% of all pregnant woman (5). I saw antenatal depression nearly as much as postpartum depression in practice, yet mothers rarely discuss it.

    If you are feeling more emotional, you are not alone! Most women feel emotions more intensely while pregnant. If the anger turns into sadness or persists, you could be dealing with an antenatal mental health disorder. Seeking counseling is an effective way to improve your symptoms and take back your pregnancy. Let your healthcare provider know what your concerns are so that they can keep both of you safe.

    Headshot of Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

    Editor's Note:

    Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM

    If you’ve used these tips, and still have trouble with your emotions, don’t put off a discussion with your healthcare provider anymore! Just as you wouldn’t ignore a physical symptom, take care of your mental and emotional health.

    And now it’s your turn – other moms want to hear from you! Do you have any more tips for managing anger during pregnancy? Share your wisdom with other moms-to-be below! We’re all in this together.

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