Irritability During Pregnancy

Pregnancy involves a myriad of changes in a woman’s body as it supports and protects the growing fetus. With these changes can come some irritability in the mother-to-be. Irritability may occur for a variety of reasons, including both physical and emotional challenges. When annoyance or impatience hits, seek support from your network of loved ones to help you feel better.

Emotional Causes

A pregnancy can cause:

  • many overwhelming feelings
  • including stress about the future
  • worry about finances
  • concern about parenting abilities
  • thoughts about changing family dynamics
  • anxiety about the logistics of adding a new person to your family

During pregnancy, it’s common for a woman to turn inward and focus on the significant changes that are occurring and that will become reality with the birth of the new baby. Feelings of anxiety and worry about the pregnancy can cause maternal irritability.

Physical Causes

Cropped pregnant woman touching belly

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Pregnancy involves many physical changes in a woman’s body, which can also cause irritability. Discomforts during the first trimester often involve nausea and fatigue. As the pregnancy progresses, the expanding uterus often causes bodily discomfort and fatigue. Hormone levels also change during pregnancy, which affects brain chemicals in charge of regulating moods, according to the American Pregnancy Association. The first and third trimesters are the most common times for irritability and issues with mood swings.

Dealing with Irritability

When crankiness sets in, fight back by taking care of yourself both physically and emotionally. Rest during the day and get enough sleep every night. Exercise every day, with the consent of your healthcare practitioner. Eat a healthy diet to ensure that you and your baby receive adequate nutrients to support the pregnancy. Take time out of every day to pursue an activity that renews or rejuvenates you, such as a hobby or an enjoyed activity. Swimming can be very relaxing. Spend time regularly with your partner to strengthen your relationship. Lean on family and friends for emotional support. Realize that during pregnancy, emotional fragility is both common and expected.

When to Worry

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If your irritability is chronic or has escalated to frequent bouts of feeling angry or depressed, speak with your practitioner or a mental health professional about the possibility of depression. Recognizing clinical depression can be challenging during pregnancy because many of the symptoms of depression are also common symptoms of irritability, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. If you have a history of depression or anxiety, pregnancy can increase your risks for continued problems, warns the March of Dimes. Symptoms of more serious issues include:

  • sleep disturbances
  • loss of energy
  • inability to focus
  • reduced interest in activities
  • appetite or eating changes
  • restlessness
  • repeated thoughts about suicide

Untreated depression during pregnancy can pose risks to both mother and child. Your healthcare practitioner will assess you or refer you to a specialist for assessment and treatment recommendations.