Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Lin Jiayi
Dealing With Early Pregnancy Symptoms: Mood Swings and More
Published | 7 min read
The body changes during early pregnancy, and this can result in mood swings. Learn more about how you can manage it better.
Pregnancy is a happy and joyful time in a woman’s life, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t challenges to face. Early pregnancy symptoms, from morning sickness to hormone swings can make it tough to manage all the daily demands you face from work, family, and friends. The bodily changes you are experiencing may cause discomfort and stress that lead to mood swings.
5 Common Early Pregnancy Symptoms
The National Institute of Mental Health stresses that a woman is not to blame or at fault for having pregnancy-related depression or mood swings — these are common during early pregnancy. The triggers are a combination of factors, including life stress (for example, demands at work or experiences of past trauma), the physical and emotional demands of childbearing, and changes in hormones.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view is 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.”
So let’s look at the early pregnancy symptoms you and your body are going through that can trigger emotional ups and downs.
1. Hormonal changes
The hormones estrogen and progesterone play vital roles in maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Progesterone helps with the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus. It stimulates the thickening of the uterine lining. While estrogen helps the uterus grow, regulates other key hormones, and enables the growth and development of the fetus’s organs.
The levels of both of those hormones fluctuate throughout pregnancy. These hormonal changes play a role in mood swings during early pregnancy and beyond.
2. Morning sickness
Many women experience varying levels of morning sickness, a common early pregnancy symptom. 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, especially in the first trimester.
3. Poor sleep quality
In the first trimester, expectant mothers may feel tired and go to bed early – yet they may still have to deal with sleep disturbances and even insomnia. Early interventions and management strategies to treat such sleep disturbances include improving sleep hygiene by sticking with a set bedtime, removing all digital devices from the bedroom (no blue light), and making sure the room is dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Behavioral therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and treatment with doctor-prescribed, pregnancy-safe medication may also help.
4. Physical changes
Some of your body’s physical changes may include excess weight gain, uncomfortably enlarged breasts, urinary incontinence, varicose veins, and backaches. If these occur and make you feel uncomfortable, talk to your doctor about ways to ease or manage the discomfort so it doesn’t reduce your quality of life. There are solutions that will help, whether in early pregnancy or throughout.
5. Stress and anxiety
Due to all the bodily changes you are experiencing, it’s understandable that you get hit with moments of hard-to-handle stress and anxiety. However, if you feel blue or anxious for more than seven days and don’t find joy in the things that used to make you happy, please consult your doctor as soon as possible.
How to Control Mood Swings During Early Pregnancy and Beyond
Despite the significant impact that early pregnancy symptoms could have on your mood, there are plenty of ways to improve how you feel, as well as boost your and your baby’s health and wellbeing. Here are some you could try.
1. Enjoy 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, an appropriate amount of weight gain is necessary – however, women who are overweight before they are pregnant should talk with their doctor to determine how much weight is safe for them to gain. Whatever the weight gain goals, a mother’s diet should provide adequate nutrients to meet the needs of her and her growing baby.
So, be sure to eat plenty of fruits, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats throughout your pregnancy. As the color associated with the liver is green, physician Lin recommends increasing your intake of green vegetables to help the liver qi flow smoothly.
It might also be helpful to take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to ensure sufficient intake of iron and folic acid. Edible bird’s nest is also loaded with nutrients that can help the development of your baby, as well as boost your overall health.
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. Based on the body meridian clock, 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, especially during early pregnancy. 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.
- Current Opinion of Psychiatry. 2012. Anxiety, depression and stress in pregnancy: implications for mothers, children, research, and practice.[Accessed October 25, 2021]
- Healthy Families British Columbia. 2013. Mothers’ Physical Changes in the First Trimester. [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- National Institute of Mental Health. Perinatal Depression. [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- Live Science. 2017. Mood Swings & Mommy Brain: The Emotional Challenges of Pregnancy . [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- NCT. 2018. Emotions During Pregnancy . [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences. 2016. Insomnia during pregnancy: Diagnosis and Rational Interventions . [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- The Annual Review of Psychology. 2011. Psychological Science on Pregnancy: Stress Processes, Biopsychosocial Models, and Emerging Research Issues. [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- World Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2019. Maternal Health and Nutrition in Pregnancy: An Insight [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- Eu Yan Sang Facebook page. 2019. EYS Niah Bird’s Nest – Pregnancy . [Accessed October 25, 2021]
- Eu Yang Sang Singapore. 7 Things to Know About Bird’s Next . [Accessed October 25, 2021]
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