Recently, I was catching up on my reading – in a chair at my hair salon. I picked up a copy of People magazine and flipped to the cover story about actress Lauren Conrad and her new baby boy. Much of the interview covered routine “new mom” experiences, but one of her comments caught my eye: “I didn’t love being pregnant.”
I was impressed with Conrad’s candor. A lot of women wouldn’t be so honest about not enjoying pregnancy. Since then, other celebrities have opened up about their pregnancy experiences, including Kelly Clarkson, who referred to pregnancy as “the worst moments” of her life.
In our culture, loving the journey of being pregnant feels mandatory. Women who don’t enjoy it, even if the pregnancy is easy, might feel ostracized by their peers or might feel like something is wrong with them.
But there are many reasons why a woman might not enjoy pregnancy, and if you simply don’t like the experience you shouldn’t feel like you have to justify your feelings to anyone. My patients have shared their thoughts on the subject, and these are four of the most common reasons I’ve heard.
Common reasons why a woman might not enjoy pregnancy
The pregnancy was a surprise
More than half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned. It’s absolutely reasonable that a woman who was surprised by a pregnancy might be anxious, sad, or downright angry about it.
Surprise pregnancies can be incredibly stressful for families. Some common concerns include:
If you find yourself surprised by a pregnancy, ask your Ob/Gyn for help in connecting to resources that can offer solutions for your concerns.
- Financial worries: How will we afford diapers? What about childcare? Will I be able to keep my job?
- Future plans: I just sent my youngest off to kindergarten … or college.
- Relationship dynamics: How will my partner react? How will pregnancy affect my sex life? What will my older children think?
Symptoms of pregnancy can be unpleasant
Even in an “easy” pregnancy, the side effects can be annoying, uncomfortable, or painful. Some women have few or no symptoms. Others, as Lauren Conrad mentioned in the People article, suffer with morning sickness (nausea and vomiting), trouble sleeping, skin changes that can be permanent (dark spots and stretch marks), and swelling. And for women who have suffered from postpartum depression, the potential for another round of this debilitating condition can be overwhelming.
Pregnancy is a period of uncertainty
No matter how healthy you are before pregnancy, it’s impossible to predict whether you’ll have a healthy pregnancy. Unexpected things can happen to your developing baby or to you. It’s estimated that as many as 30 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and there often is no way to determine what caused the pregnancy loss.
Sometimes babies come earlier than they should, without warning, or have congenital conditions that will require treatment after birth. And unfortunately, tragedies can occur during labor and delivery.
These uncertainties can be unsettling for women, and not every woman is able to manage such concerns easily.
It can be hard to give up or modify activities you enjoy
There are many physical activities pregnant women can enjoy safely. But there also are many that simply aren’t safe for expecting moms and their babies. Your doctor might recommend modifying or giving up certain exercises and activities during pregnancy.
If you’re more into sipping wine with friends than lifting weights, alcohol restrictions during pregnancy can be a bummer, too. This can lead to feeling disconnected from friends and feeling like you’ve given up control of your body to the baby. Talk to your doctor about ways to combat these feelings, which can easily slip into isolation, depression, or unhealthy decision-making.
Related reading: Dr. Horsager’s CNN interview about drinking alcohol during pregnancy
Advice for expecting women who aren’t loving pregnancy
First, recognize your emotions. It’s perfectly fine to not always be a happy camper about pregnancy. Just because society says you should be a round, glowing goddess doesn’t mean you have to feel that way – physically or emotionally. Talk to your doctor about ways to enjoy your hobbies, even if you have to modify them. You might even uncover new interests you never would have considered if not for your newfound free time.
Second, don’t compare your feelings or your pregnancy to the experiences of others. It’s totally fine that your biggest enjoyment of the third trimester is that the pregnancy is almost over! Truth be told, if you meet a 39-weeks-pregnant woman who says she hasn’t once uttered, “Get this baby out of me,” she’s probably fibbing.
Third, set reasonable expectations for yourself during pregnancy. You’ll likely be more tired and rounder. As long as negative thoughts aren’t taking over your life, it’s normal to be a little grouchy from time to time if pregnancy isn’t fun for you.
And reasonable expectations pertain to body image as well. Don’t assume you should look like the pregnant celebrities who have personal trainers and chefs in their employ. It might be wise to avoid magazines, social channels, and websites that promote these types of scenarios and images during your pregnancy. In fact, one small study suggests that women who use Facebook during pregnancy might have more trouble with body self-image during pregnancy than women who don’t.
Lauren Conrad’s story in People about not liking pregnancy was an honest view of what pregnancy is really like for many women. If someone with the resources that she has can say her pregnancy wasn’t super fun, the rest of us should not feel guilty for feeling the same way.
If you are concerned about your negative feelings surrounding pregnancy, connect with your doctor for help with coping and finding solutions to your concerns.