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Having Mood Swings During Early Pregnancy? Here’s How to Deal with It

The body changes during early pregnancy, and this can result in mood swings. Learn more about how you can manage it better.

A pregnant woman sits in a park reading a book

Many assume that pregnancy is a happy and joyful time in a woman’s life. However, a woman goes through a lot during the nine months of pregnancy. These bodily changes could cause discomfort and stress that lead to mood swings, which tend to occur throughout the pregnancy and, in certain cases, postnatally.

As the body changes throughout the months, a pregnant woman needs to adapt continuously to it.

Causes of Mood Swings During Early Pregnancy

A study by the International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication defines “mood swings during pregnancy” as “a sharp and inexplicable change in mood during pregnancy due to hormonal changes”.

On the other hand, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that liver qi is responsible for controlling emotions. Eu Yan Sang Associate Senior TCM physician Lin Jia Yi explains, “From the TCM perspective, the liver system is in charge of the regulation of qi in the body. So, when you’re emotional, having mood swings, angry, depressed, or anxious, all of these are related to liver qi stagnation. It means the qi is not flowing smoothly in your body.”  

Here are the most common reasons that cause them: 

1. Hormonal changes

The hormones estrogen and progesterone play vital roles in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone helps the fertilised egg to be implanted in the uterus. Meanwhile, estrogen helps the uterus grow, regulates other key hormones, maintains the uterine lining, and enables the growth and development of the baby’s organs. 

Both hormones level will fluctuate throughout pregnancy. These hormonal changes play a role in causing mood swings during pregnancy. 

2. Morning sickness

Many women will experience varying levels of morning sickness, especially in the first trimester. This nausea or vomiting is caused by the rapid increase in estrogen levels required to help the uterus grow and enable other necessary changes. This feeling is common in the morning, hence its name, but pregnant women can feel nausea at any time of the day or night.

3. Poor sleep quality

Sleep changes during pregnancy. In the first trimester, expectant mothers may feel tired and go to bed early – yet could still experience sleep disturbances and even insomnia. Early interventions and management strategies to treat such sleep disturbances include improving sleep hygiene, behavioural therapies, and treatment with medication under the close supervision of a doctor. All of this will help to improve pregnancy outcomes. 

4. Physical changes

Compared to hormonal changes, nausea and sleep disturbances, some of your body’s physical changes will be more noticeable. For example, your breasts could look bigger and feel tender or even lumpy; some women may also notice the areas around their nipples becoming darker. If these occur and make you feel uncomfortable, it may help to wear a bra with good support, such as a nursing bra.

5. Stress and anxiety

Due to all the changes that are experienced by the body, it’s understandable that pregnant women will experience some level of stress or anxiety. So, if you feel down for more than seven days and don’t find joy in the things that used to make you happy, you may be experiencing early signs of perinatal depression. Please consult your doctor as soon as possible if you or your loved ones suspect that you may be experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression. 

How to Control Mood Swings During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman eats her lunch of salad fresh fruit and a glass of milk
It is essential for pregnant ladies to eat a well-balanced diet.

Despite the significant impact that early pregnancy could have on your mood, there are plenty of ways to improve how you feel, as well as boost you and your baby’s health and well-being. Here are some you could try.

1. Maintain a healthy and well-balanced diet

Good nutrition is important to maintain a healthy pregnancy. According to the World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, pregnancy is a period of rapid growth and development, both for the mother and the fetus. As such, maternal weight gain is a necessary change during pregnancy. A mother’s diet should provide adequate nutrients to meet the needs of her and her growing baby, as well as not damaging her own health. 

So, be sure to eat plenty of fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats throughout your pregnancy. As the colour associated with the liver is green, physician Lin recommends increasing your intake of green vegetables to help the liver qi flowing smoothly. 

It might also be helpful to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure sufficient intake of iron and folic acid or foods high in nutrients, like bird’s nest tonics. These can help the development of your baby, as well as boost your overall health.

A pregnant woman exercises with a lightweight medicine ball at home
A prenatal class might be just what you need as an additional support system. 

2. Exercise regularly

It’s very important to stay fit and healthy throughout your pregnancy. A healthy mother is necessary to give birth to a healthy baby, and regular exercise will benefit the mother’s health too. 

When it comes to exercise, physician Lin suggests a moderate exercise like walking to improve circulation and “improve the flow of qi”. Suitable workouts for pregnant women include swimming, yoga, indoor cycling, ellipticals, and other non-strenuous workouts. Talk to a personal trainer if you’re unsure which form of exercise is suitable for you. 

3. Get enough rest

Getting enough rest and sleep is essential. Although you may experience sleep disturbances and other periods of fatigue, try to rest whenever you can. Expecting mothers should sleep before 11 PM.

“It’s very important. 11 PM to 1 AM is when your qi flows through the gallbladder meridian. The liver and gallbladder are closely related. Sleeping before 11 PM ensures that the liver gets to rest and recharge,” adds physician Lin. TCM believes that qi flows through 12 principal meridians within our body in a 24-hour cycle. 

You should also pace yourself – have periods of activity and then rest so that you don’t strain yourself too much. If you’re working at the office or from home, schedule breaks periodically and enjoy extended rest during lunch hour. 

4. Communicate with others

It’s normal to feel both excited and worried about becoming a mother. Talk to your family, friends, and trusted co-workers about what you’re experiencing. Physician Lin notes, “With mood swings, sometimes you cannot handle it alone. Sometimes you need support. So (find) a supportive family, friends, doctor or an avenue where you can talk about your frustrations and worries. Pregnant mothers normally have a lot of questions, so they need people who can give answers and reassure them.” 

Joining a support group of new parents or expectant mothers will also provide you with all the support you need during your pregnancy and early stages of parenthood. And if you need more help, seeking professional counsel through a licensed therapist is a good idea. 

Motherhood is an exciting adventure of a lifetime. Although pregnancy can be difficult on some days, remember to be kind to yourself. Give your body a few weeks to adjust to the many hormonal and physical changes you’ll experience during early pregnancy. Treat yourself well, and don’t let the mood swings get you down.

References

  1. Current Opinion of Psychiatry. 2012. Anxiety, depression and stress in pregnancy: implications for mothers, children, research, and practice. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  2. Healthy Families British Columbia. 2013. Mothers’ Physical Changes in the First Trimester. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  3. International Conference on Ubiquitous Information Management and Communication. 2019. Pregnant Women’s Condition and Awareness About Mood Swings: A Survey Study in Bangladesh. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  4. Live Science. 2017. Mood Swings & Mommy Brain: The Emotional Challenges of Pregnancy. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  5. NCT. 2018. Emotions During Pregnancy. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  6. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. 2016. Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  7. The Annual Review of Psychology. 2011. Psychological Science on Pregnancy: Stress Processes, Biopsychosocial Models, and Emerging Research Issues. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  8. World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2019. Maternal Health and Nutrition in Pregnancy: An Insight. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  9. Eu Yan Sang Facebook page. 2019. EYS Niah Bird’s Nest – Pregnancy. [Accessed 7 July 2021]
  10. Eu Yang Sang Singapore. 7 Things to Know About Bird’s Next. [Accessed 7 July 2021]

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