One night, when I was around 7 months pregnant, my baby started rolling around in my belly, and then sat up and looked at me. Or I thought he did, until I woke up. I had been having a very common pregnancy dream, one in which I “met” my baby. It was really quite a disappointment to realize that the delightfully chubby, rosy cheeked, curly haired baby I’d been gazing at was a figment of my imagination. I was so ready at that point to have my baby in arms. At other times during my three full-term pregnancies, I woke up feeling more exhausted than when I’d gone to bed, having battled my way through epic-length, wildly intense dreams. Many other women have described such dreams, and have complained about the vivid and intense nature of their dreams during pregnancy. They report frightening nightmares, “cheating husband” dreams, dreams of being chased, and other emotionally intense dreams.
Other dream weirdness can include ocean or water related dreams, dreams of giving birth to animals or other non human beings, and the dream appearance of ex-lovers. Of course, people look for meaning in these dreams. Some of the explanations are simple logic. We often work out our anxieties in dreams1, and pregnancy gives us all kinds of new things to be anxious about: what will our baby look like? will he or she be “perfect”? will our husband be a good (and present) father? will we be “trapped” by motherhood?
Why do pregnant women feel that they’re having more, and more vivid, dreams? Hormones explain a lot of things in pregnancy, and they may explain this symptom as well. Hormonal changes may directly cause these dreams. Also, pregnant women often deal with sleep disturbances, which means they are interrupting REM-sleep dreams, which are the dreams we most commonly remember. 2
What can an expectant mom do about these dreams? Not much, really. But some women may get comfort from journaling their dreams, or looking up possible meanings. The Mayo Clinic’s Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy suggests journaling and reflection on pregnancy dreams, as well as the possibility of therapy if the dreams reach a point of being severely disturbing.3 You may find it helpful simply to communicate these dreams with your partner, a friend, or your caregiver…to “talk it out”, so to speak. As a matter of interest, expectant dads also often have “pregnancy” dreams, usually focused on fears about masculinity, fatherhood, and feeling left out.
In the end, whether your pregnancy dreams are majority positive or negative, know that you will soon have larger, more pressing things occupying your mind. You will be focused on your baby, your hormones will change again, and you may spend several weeks not getting any dream-inducing REM sleep, and so the dreams will likely settle down as you move on from pregnancy into motherhood.
1Freaky Dreams: What’s Causing Them?, Suzanne Wright, WebMD
2How and why does pregnancy affect dreams?, Mary O’Malley, babycenter.com
3Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, Roger W. Harmes, Mayo Clinic