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Pregnancy: The Psychology Of Dreams

"Some dreams can give a glimpse into a future event. That said, some dreams are just random 'offloads' of an overworked or stressed mind," says Carla Manley, a clinical psychologist in private practice.

Pregnancy: The Psychology of Dreams

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From a biological perspective, you can blame the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase. Your brainwaves during this phase are almost as active as when you're wide awake, and this is when your most vivid dreams occur.

Vivid dreams, more frequent dreams, and a greater ability to remember dreams are all common during pregnancy. This happens because your hormones are shifting, which can have a major impact on your emotions.

One 2018 study involving 143 pregnant women and 125 nonpregnant women found that those who were pregnant experienced greater anxiety in their dreams than those who were not. This study's results also found that pregnant women were four times more likely to dream about being pregnant than their nonpregnant counterparts.

The continuity hypothesis would suggest your mind hasn't let go of those anxious thoughts from your waking hours. Experts agree that fear-based dreams focused on pregnancy can reflect your anxiety of what might happen if you actually got pregnant.

"This can be your psyche's way of allowing you to notice and confront any pregnancy-related fears. For those who don't want to be pregnant and find themselves worried about changing abortion laws, your mind may be offloading these worries and intense fears into dreams while you sleep," Manley says.

Manly says stress dreams often reflect something other than pregnancy itself. "Some dreams just represent an overworked mind. If an individual is stressed in some way, the psyche often offers messages in a way that will capture their attention," Manley says.

"Someone who dreams of being pregnant may actually be expressing a sense of fertility or fruitfulness in an important area of life such as work, home life, self-care, hobbies, or creativity," Manley says.

"If someone has experienced a recent miscarriage, this is likely a wish-fulfillment dream," Gonzalez-Berrios says. This interpretation ties back into Freud's theory that some repressed wishes manifest in dreams, often without your conscious awareness.

Freud uses the example of dreaming about the death of a loved one as a wish that is often repressed. He suggests that if you consistently try to avoid heavy or heartbroken thoughts during the day, they'll stay repressed and keep showing up in your dreams.

"In one way, this dream symbolizes joy and ecstasy, and on the flip side, it reveals an unconscious fear of taking responsibilities in waking life. Some anxiety and uncertainty about a fresh beginning can also lead to these dreams," Gonzalez-Berrios says.

Researchers believe that dreams may be a way for our subconscious Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source to work through issues that are currently on our mind. Unsurprisingly, many pregnant women report pregnancy-related dreams Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . You may dream about being pregnant or dream that you are meeting your baby for the first time. Many mothers even dream about the sex of the baby.

At other times, pregnancy dreams take a frightening turn. Mothers-to-be may have nightmares about labor and delivery, or dream that something bad has happened to the baby. A common theme for dreams during pregnancy involves conflict with the father.

While pregnancy-themed dreams may be partly due to hormones, similar dreams have also been known to occur after giving birth Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source and in expectant fathers. Talking through dreams with your partner may help both of you to assimilate your changing roles.

Mothers-to-be who report feeling more anxious or depressed during the day are more likely to experience bad dreams. Similarly, research consistently finds that first-time mothers tend to have more pregnancy-related dreams than those who have already had children.

Daytime fatigue is a commonly cited reason for the uptick in dreams during pregnancy. It seems logical that women who are tired will nap more, leading to more opportunities for dreaming. However, pregnancy causes profound changes to our nighttime sleep, as well.

As we sleep, we progress through various sleep stages. Dreaming tends to occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, at the end of each sleep cycle. During a regular night, we may experience four or five episodes of REM sleep, but we often forget our dreams by the time we wake up several hours later.

By contrast, for many women, pregnancy-related discomfort causes fragmented sleep with multiple nighttime awakenings. Interestingly, these disruptions may actually cause pregnant women to get less REM sleep overall Trusted Source Oxford Academic Journals (OUP) OUP publishes the highest quality journals and delivers this research to the widest possible audience. View Source . However, people are usually more likely to remember their dreams if they wake up in the middle of a dream cycle, making it appear that pregnant women have more dreams.

Changing hormones may also be to thank for altered sleep patterns during pregnancy. Not only do hormones cause a roller-coaster ride of emotions during the day, but some researchers also theorize that the increase in vivid, detailed dreams may be linked with higher levels of progesterone Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source that arise in late pregnancy.

In most cases, vivid dreams during pregnancy are a normal and healthy way to process emotions. In fact, several studies have found that mothers who had more masochistic dreams during pregnancy show higher levels of depressive symptoms during pregnancy, but go on to have shorter labors Trusted Source Elsevier Elsevier is a publishing company that aims to help researchers and health care professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. View Source and a lower risk of postpartum depression .

Improving the quality of your sleep and reducing nighttime awakenings may help cut down on vivid dreams. Try following pregnancy sleeping tips such as sleeping on your left side and avoiding liquids before bed to reduce disruptions to your sleep.

Sleep patterns and dream content may be affected by stressful life events such as pregnancy loss. Women who are pregnant subsequent to a prior pregnancy loss tend to have anxious and emotionally charged experiences during their pregnancies. Dreams can affect pregnancy outcomes, specifically premature birth. This qualitative study is the first investigation to explore sleep disturbances caused by dreams as experienced by a diverse group of women pregnant subsequent to a pregnancy loss. Our analysis resulted in the identification of 4 categories of dreams. We offer clinical assessment and intervention strategies to support these women prenatally and present suggestions for research to facilitate our understanding of their experiences.

The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency of recall and the content of dreams during pregnancy, as well as their correlation with socio-demographic, obstetric and physician-patients relationship variables, emotional state and duration of labour. A questionnaire, designed to analyse background characteristics, was given to 290 women in the third trimester of gestation. The psychiatric analysis of anxiety and depression was performed using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety and the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale, while dreams were divided into masochistic and pleasant according to Beck's criteria. Oneiric activity was found to be associated with age >or= 35 years, higher family income, higher educational level, and a "satisfactory" physician-patient relationship. Masochistic content was associated with age

Back in the 1970s, psychologist Alan Siegel held dream workshops with pregnant women. After sharing the markedly perplexing content of their nighttime imaginations, these women wondered aloud, "Will I be a good mother? Will the baby be OK?" According to Siegel, this kind of progression -- from describing dreams to analyzing real-life emotions -- is crucial during those life-altering nine months.

"The dreams were sort of this ideal stimulus for talking about the underlying feelings that went with pregnancy," Siegel, who has been researching the dreams of expectant moms ever since, told The Huffington Post.

All of those bizarre dreams women report having while pregnant can be a way for them to come to terms with their new role as a parent. It's all part of a "mental remodeling process," said Tore Nielsen, director of the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory at the Hopital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal, in Canada.

Combine this mental shift with what Siegel called the "stew" of hormones pregnant women deal with, and you have a recipe for some pretty eccentric dreams -- think: giving birth to a toothbrush. (One mom recently told The Huffington Post she dreamed just that.)

The not-so-great news is that these hormone fluctuations can exacerbate the stress of odd or unpleasant dreams. Nielsen said levels of the stress hormone cortisol could be to blame, since they rise during the course of the night and during the course of pregnancy. No one has proven that increasing cortisol also ups dream intensity, but the correlation is strong, according to Nielsen. 041b061a72

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