Written by Psychologist Nikolina Miljus.
Intense anger and irritability during pregnancy are more common than you may realize. It’s uncomfortable for many of us to admit to ourselves how angry we truly feel so you’ve made a positive first step in seeking to understand why it’s happening.
By looking at why we’re angry and the ways it can show up during pregnancy, we’ll learn how to deal with irritability and anger and get back that inner calm.
When most of us imagine pregnancy we see a glowing image of a happy mom-to-be, overjoyed with the prospect of bringing a new life into the world.
We don’t see anger or even rage brewing inside ready to spill out at any moment.
If small events like your partner leaving unwashed dishes on the counter sends you over the edge and transforms you into a raging monster, you’re not alone. Many pregnant women experience episodes of intense anger triggered by seemingly minor situations.
The angry outbursts are usually replaced with feelings of guilt for acting out and saying things you don’t really mean. Not to mention the overwhelming confusion about why you are feeling so angry all the time.
After all, this is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life.
Understanding where all the anger is coming from is the first step toward learning how to tackle these feelings.
Irritability in early pregnancy
After the initial excitement of discovering you’re pregnant subsides the reality of actually being pregnant starts to set in.
Morning sickness, tender breasts, mood swings, sleep issues and exhaustion are the signs your body is producing plenty of pregnancy hormones.
Aside from preparing your body to nurture your baby’s growth, hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and oxytocin influence your emotions in a very notable way.
Powered by those pregnancy hormones, your emotions are more intense than usual.
Little things that you wouldn’t normally notice, or would be a mild irritation at most, can send you into a full-blown rage when you’re pregnant.
On top of those hormone-fueled emotions, pregnancy is simply mentally and physically exhausting.
When you feel nauseous for so much of the time, you’re not getting enough sleep and you feel like your body is not your own anymore it’s understandable to feel at least a bit irritable.
It’s a natural consequence of all the physical changes we go through during pregnancy.
Stress adds to the irritability and there’s often a lot of that in pregnancy.
If your pregnancy comes at a time when:
- your financial security is a concern
- or the stability of your relationship with the baby’s father is questionable
- or you’ve had a prior miscarriage
- or a complicated or traumatic prior labor
The stress of one or more of these factors, alongside the physical changes you are experiencing only adds to the irritability and feelings of anger.
Anger in the third trimester
In the third trimester, you might expect your emotions to settle down once the morning sickness ends and you get used to your super-sized body. But you might find yourself feeling even more angry and irritable as your due date approaches.
Big, angry feelings in the third trimester are something many pregnant women can relate to.
Once again, the physical reality of pregnancy can take its toll on how you’re feeling.
The baby is pressing on your bladder and diaphragm, making you visit the bathroom every three minutes while also making you feel breathless.
Baby can also press on your stomach and usher in a return to nausea and vomiting. This can also cause heartburn which is a problem for many women.
Back and leg pain can intensify. Not to mention Pelvic Girdle Pain (PGP) and Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD).
Sleep is often disturbed.
You feel slow, heavy and uncomfortable.
It can become difficult, if not impossible, to take care of the household, work and enjoy the time with your partner or other children.
It can all get a bit too much to cope with.
All of these stressors may make you feel frustrated and result in you wishing things could be different.
Why can’t you be like the perfect Instagram pregnant mom?
Looking gorgeous at all times and living a perfect life.
When reality is different from how you’d like things to be, irritability and anger usually follow.
As you get closer to your due date it’s natural to feel worried about labor and birth, even more so if you are a first-time mom.
The worries intensify if your pregnancy has been identified as high risk.
The uncertainty often gives rise to feelings of anxiety and stress.
Feeling angry all the time in your pregnancy doesn’t mean you are not looking forward to having your baby, that you are a bad person, or that you are going to be an awful mom. You’re simply human.
Be kind to yourself and open up to others about your feelings.
Often underneath feelings of anger and irritability are feelings of fear and vulnerability. Do a little self analysis and see if that’s true for you.
How to deal with anger in pregnancy
Now that you understand where the irritability and anger in your pregnancy are coming from, here are some psychological and practical ways to tackle anger in pregnancy.
1. Rethink Your Expectations
The way you think about a situation plays a very important role in how will you feel about it.
For example, if you expect your pregnancy to fit the ideal image yet you wake up each day feeling exhausted by unpleasant pregnancy symptoms, you are bound to feel somewhat angry and disappointed.
The same goes with expectations about your financial security or your relationship with your partner.
When things are not the way you want them to be, anger and irritability often follow.
Perhaps you are expecting too much of yourself.
Maybe you want to be super woman work, have a spotless home, have perfectly behaved children, have time for a busy social life, prepare your home to welcome the new baby and have a perfect relationship with your partner.
You may have to let some of these expectations go and make your first priority looking after yourself.
Expecting your partner to act in a certain way or to be able to read your mind is another unrealistic expectation that can be a source of anger. Make sure you’re asking for what you need and want. It really does make life a whole lot easier.
Rethinking your expectations and how realistic they are in your current situation will help you feel differently.
2. Acknowledge Your Feelings
Pregnancy can bring to the surface deeply rooted feelings related to how you see yourself and the way you relate to people closest to you. The first step is to acknowledge your feelings.
Sometimes it’s easier to be angry than it is to show how we’re really feeling. If you’re really honest with yourself you might find confusion, vulnerability, fear, grief and sadness underneath your outward show of anger and irritability.
Constant anger can also be a sign of depression.
Grief and Loss
It’s perfectly natural to feel a sense of loss as your body changes into something unrecognizable.
That lovely flat stomach may have grown some stretch marks. Your boobs may be all veiny and not as attractive as they were before.
Putting on weight around your hips, stomach and thighs is normal as your body prepares to feed a baby. But if you’ve always been very slim and your body shape is closely tied in with your self esteem it can be a very difficult adjustment.
Your relationship is going to change during pregnancy and maybe evolve in ways you may not have anticipated.
Sexual problems may arise for the first time. Arguments are common.
You may grieve for the couple you were before pregnancy and feel anxious about your future together.
It would also be very challenging to find a woman who was thrilled by morning sickness, back pain and going to the bathroom every five minutes.
3. Relax and Take Care of Yourself as Much as You Can
Once you acknowledge the reality of your pregnancy, you can take practical steps to manage your irritability and anger.
The first step is allowing yourself to take things easy and giving yourself enough space to rest and restore as much energy as you can.
If this means leaving the dishes unwashed for a while, leave them. Unwashed dishes are less important than you battling against your tired pregnant body.
Accept all the help you can get.
If a friend offers to babysit so you can go for a walk take her up on the offer. If you have the choice to take early maternity leave consider accepting it.
Reach out to your friends and family and ask for help.
It’s one of the hardest things to do but if you feel like you’re on the verge of a physical and emotional breakdown then it’s necessary.
4. Take Time-out
Intense feelings don’t last long, but they quickly overtake your rational mind and make you behave in ways you usually wouldn’t.
The reality of hormone-fueled feelings can mean that you find it incredibly difficult to regulate them and the resulting behavior but if you can catch the feeling as it begins you will have more control over it.
Practicing time-out when you notice that first spark of anger is one way to avoid doing and saying things you don’t really mean.
It’s a simple technique that works well and saves you feeling guilty afterwards.
When you notice anger and rage growing inside a quick five-minute break, in the form of a quick visit to the bathroom, may be all you need to calm your feelings and make them more manageable.
5. Talk to Your Partner, Close Friend or Family Member
Sharing your feelings with the people closest to you is so important during pregnancy. When you’re struggling with deep thoughts and intense feelings all on your own, getting over them is harder.
Talking to the people you care about before anger takes hold and clouds your communication means there is a far greater chance of them sympathizing with you (rather than feeling attacker and defensive).
Feeling loved and accepted in your pregnancy is probably the most powerful tool to support you in the difficult moments.
Talking to other women who have experienced anger in their pregnancy can be helpful too. Knowing your feelings are natural and that they will pass as soon as your pregnancy is over can give you the boost you need.
If talking to those closest to you doesn’t feel like an option, then counseling or therapy are recommended. Finding support will help you cope with your angry feelings.
We hope we’ve reassured you that feeling angry during pregnancy is definitely in the range of normal experiences, but if you have any more questions let us know.