Leaning over his vanilla latte across the cafe table, Keanu Reeves winked at me. We had a mutual understanding. We spoke each other's unspoken languages. Because, you see, we were having the same kind of hemorrhoid surgery. Yes, that was not the fantasy I imagined I'd be having about the illustrious Mr. Reeves's rear end, but there's no accounting for dreams. And that's never more true than when it comes to pregnancy dreams. If you're having weird dreams in the second trimester, rest assured that it's not just you.
I'm 26 weeks pregnant, and I've had vivid dreams throughout my second trimester. They're often upsetting in nature, and I remember them in detail. Usually they involve being woefully unprepared. Other times, I'm being chased. The other night, my assailants were closing in and I was forced to jump from a second story window with my cat under my arm. I fell, only to land on a trampoline. As I bounced back up, I instantly awoke, heart racing and drenched in sweat. The incredible stress I felt seemed to carry over into my morning. That's typical of my pregnancy dreams, too. I can't seem to separate my dream emotions from my real ones.
Intense pregnancy dreams, like those I've experienced, are fairly typical. A quick poll of your mom friends will likely reveal just how common they are, but there's supporting research, too. Psychology Today cites a study that found that 80 percent of pregnant women reported especially strange and detailed dreams. And according to WebMD, there's an increase in all types of dreaming during pregnancy. It's not just the amount of dreaming, either; dream recall is enhanced when you're carrying a pregnancy, too. Another study found that pregnant woman remembered more nightmares than their non-pregnant counterparts. Lucky us, right?
So, why are bizarre dreams so prevalent during pregnancy? It's likely due to a combination of factors. According to The Bump, an increase in the hormones progesterone and estrogen plays a major role. The stress hormone cortisol rises both during the night and during pregnancy, too, which may explain why you can't shake those unpleasant dreams. There's also the fact that pregnant women require more sleep, and more sleep equals more dreams. The fact that your REM sleep is constantly interrupted by the need to pee or a kicking baby contributes to your heightened recall also. Finally, you're in a highly emotional state, and that's likely playing out as you sleep.
So it's perfectly normal to have more frequent and colorful dreams during pregnancy, but what about the subjects of said dreams? If you're in the second trimester, your dreams likely reflect your growing connection with your baby. According to BabyCenter, common second trimester dreams often involve the following themes: baby animals, sex, and fear of infidelity. Dream Moods adds teeth falling out, ex-lovers, and famous people. It's also not unheard of to have a nightmare that you put your baby in danger ("losing" them or leaving them in the car, for example) or give birth to something other than a tiny human (an alien, a puppy, and even a toothbrush).
What can you do about your bizarre dreams? It might be enough to know that your dreams are your subconscious's way of working through your emotions of vulnerability, insecurity, and anxiety. You may be able to reduce the recurrence of dreams by getting on a consistent sleep schedule and making your "nest" more sleep-friendly (think pregnancy pillows and blackout curtains). For more distressing dreams, the American Pregnancy Association (APA) suggests keeping a dream journal by your bed. Putting your dreams in writing can help you both process and separate them from reality. For persistent bad dreams that prevent you from much-needed rest, you may wish to seek professional help.
You can also take comfort knowing that the intensity of your dreams will likely fade over the course of your pregnancy. Researchers found that pregnant women in the third trimester reported fewer morbid dreams and attributed it to mom's growing confidence in her baby's safety. Unfortunately, bad dreams may make a comeback during the postpartum period. Your hormone levels are changing again, you're chronically sleep deprived, and now you have a host of new things to worry about. Advice for managing postpartum dreams is much the same as during pregnancy, though: eat well, exercise, and limit screen time before bed.
When you're already dealing with second trimester symptoms like heartburn, bleeding gums, and Braxton Hicks contractions, dreaming that you delivered a litter of kittens can seem like the last straw. Try to dwell in the confidence that you'll handle this like you're handling everything else (like a boss) and that you're not alone. Once your precious baby is born and you tuck them into bed at night, you'll join millions of mothers whose wishes of "sweet dreams" for their children come from the very bottom of their hearts.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.