Mental Health

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Yup, Pregnancy Rage Is Real — Here’s How To Handle It

It’s not your fault if you’re feeling angry all the time.

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When you were dreaming of becoming pregnant, you might have imagined that you’d be cradling your bump, lovingly cooing at it, and baking up a little bun in the oven like Betty Crocker. But maybe you’ve noticed that instead of feeling exhilarated, you’re more, well, incensed. While everyone’s entitled to a bad day here or there, you’re grateful if you don’t gouge someone’s eyes out. If pregnancy was in your plans, why are you irate all the damn time, then? Chalk it up to something called pregnancy rage, and yes, it’s a very real thing.

What is pregnancy rage?

Being occasionally cranky because you’re subsisting on a diet of crackers and ginger ale due to morning sickness is completely normal. Feeling angry and irritable to the point that it takes over is entirely another. And if you had to pinpoint a culprit, you’d be right in guessing that those lovely hormones are to blame. “Pregnancy rage is explained as when emotions are uncharacteristically different due to changes in hormones,” says Dr. Jessica Shepherd, M.D., FACOG, a Dallas-based OB-GYN. “This is when, in pregnancy, the body has a significant change in estrogen and progesterone that can trigger moodiness.”

Is pregnancy rage common?

If you thought you were the only pissed off preggo walking around, you’re not. In fact, it’s estimated that 1 in 7 pregnant women are affected by some sort of change in their mood or emotional well-being, making it the most common pregnancy complication, according to Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, M.D., OB-GYN and senior medical director of Babyscripts.

“Adapting to pregnancy can cause stress both physically and emotionally,” says Demosthenes. “An unplanned pregnancy — which about 50% of pregnancies are — or a planned pregnancy brings with it adjustments to a new body, new symptoms, possible sleep disruption, and more.” And when you’re expecting, one of the biggest emotions you might experience is anger.

When does pregnancy rage occur?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one specific time period during pregnancy when you might feel the effects of pregnancy rage, but it is most likely to occur during the earlier part of your pregnancy. “Most of the hormone changes that are significant in range and levels are in the first trimester and early second trimester,” Shepherd says. Still, you can start seeing red at any point in pregnancy. “People will have responses to hormones at various times during pregnancy and after,” she adds.

Can pregnancy rage affect your baby?

A racing heart and shaking hands certainly aren’t healthy for you, and that might make you wonder if those negative physical feelings and emotions can affect the blissfully unaware little fetus floating in your womb. Well, it can.

In one study, researchers found that pregnant women who experienced high levels of anger during their second trimester of pregnancy had fetuses who were more active and more likely to experience growth delays. Additionally, the participants’ higher levels of prenatal cortisol and adrenaline (along with their lower levels of dopamine and serotonin) were also mirrored by their babies. Plus, when the babies were born, their sleep patterns were muddled, making it harder for them to get good sleep. “Maternal mood disorders can have an effect on the fetus as well, leading to premature labor and delivery and poor growth of the fetus,” says Demosthenes. “If not addressed in the pregnant person, this can continue in the postpartum period as postpartum depression.” In short, what you’re feeling, your baby feels, both in the womb and after birth.

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What you can do about pregnancy rage

Although you might not be able to control your every emotion (and no one is expecting you to be happy all the time, either), if you’re feeling angrier than normal, you might want to speak to your healthcare provider about it — and be honest about how you’re feeling, since it’s not your fault.

“The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that all women be screened for mood and emotional well-being during pregnancy — with many providers doing the screening at the first prenatal visit,” says Demosthenes. “If a patient is experiencing any issues — such as depression, anxiety, anger, or sadness — counseling or medications are appropriate.” You can also be screened at your postpartum follow-up visit to ensure that you’re not suffering from postpartum depression, either.

In the meantime, there are things you can do to alleviate the anger you might be feeling. “Having a support system is always helpful and can be found in a spouse, partner, family members, and also pregnancy groups,” says Dr. Shepherd. “Also, therapeutic services such as yoga, meditation and therapists can help with restoration of mood.”

Pregnancy rage is not something to be ashamed of. If your emotions are concerning to you, speak to your doctor to see about ways to feel better. Both you and your baby will be a whole lot happier that you did.

Study referenced:

Field, T., Diego, M., Hernandez-Reif, M., Salman, F., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C., Yando, R., & Bendell, D. (2002, January). Prenatal anger effects on the fetus and neonate. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 22(3), 260–266.


Dr. Jessica Shepherd, M.D., FACOG, OB-GYN based in Dallas, Texas

Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, M.D., OB-GYN and senior medical director of Babyscripts

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