Mood swings are normal for pregnant women
HamburgĀ - A pregnant woman's mood can go from one extreme to another, leaving her feeling sad and dejected in one moment and overjoyed in the next.
"Changes in mood during pregnancy are not seldom," said Anette Kersting, a pyschiatrist at the clinic for psychiatry and psychotherapy at the university hospital in Muenster.
"It is due on one hand to the hormonal changes and on the other to changes in the living situation that go along with the birth of a child."
Studies indicate that up to 70 per cent of pregnant women at least sometimes have symptoms of depression.
Christian Albring, a gynaecologist from Hanover, knows these mental changes well through his years of experience with pregnant women.
"There is, of course, no general assertion stating that every woman after a certain number of weeks into her pregnancy will suffer specific symptoms," said Albring, who also is president of the professional association of gynaecologists. While one woman hardly has any mood swings during the entire pregnancy, another could possibly suffer for weeks from emotional highs and lows. Hormones play an important role.
"Especially in the first weeks of pregnancy, a lot of women have to deal with mood swings," said Albring. Normally, the ovaries produce hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, but in a pregnant woman the production of these hormones is gradually taken over by the placenta. By about the fifth month it replaces the ovaries' functions.
This means that during the first several months of pregnancy the body has two organs producing hormones.
"Depending on the predisposition of each individual woman, the smallest change in hormones can lead to an unexpected burst of feelings," said Albring. That's why the changing hormone supply can bring out different emotions, such as irritability, happiness, listlessness and excitability.
While the changing feelings in most cases subside after a few weeks, mood swings can be a sign of a serious disease.
"The intensity and the length of the mood swings determine whether perhaps depression or psychosis exists," said Kersting. In some cases, depending on the severity of the symptoms, therapy managed by a psychologist or psychiatrist could be necessary, added Albring.
Forgetfulness during pregnancy - also referred to as amnesia during pregnancy - is another emotional symptom that should be treated by a doctor. This is characterized by gaps in memory, such as women who cannot remember their pregnancy or who remember only parts of it.
"This amnesia is a suppressing mechanism employed to forget traumatic experiences of the past," said Nicole Knaack a medical specialist at a leading health insurer in Hamburg.
This problem is not counted - as laymen often believe - among the mental consequences of pregnancy and is not triggered by changes in hormone levels.
"These blackouts instead cause a situation from the past - such as sexual abuse - to no longer burden the women because she cannot remember it," said Knaack. In this way a woman protects not only herself, but also her unborn child, which is not subjected to great emotional stress caused by the memory. (dpa)