Five reasons your pregnant friends might be acting differently.
A midwife once told me that pregnancy is like a pressure cooker.
All of your usual life “stuff” gets amplified and exaggerated with the incredible process of growing a baby and becoming a mother.
In addition to the monumental physical and hormonal changes there is excitement, worry, elation and overwhelm that come with preparing to welcome a new baby.
These emotions are all hard work.
Your pregnant friends (and of course acquaintances, co-workers and family members) carry these emotions with them as they move through their pregnancy. Offering your pregnant friends space in your friendship—to be exactly where they are—during this amazing, complicated time is an incredible gift.
Pregnant women have a complex interplay of hormones at work from the very first moments of pregnancy. These hormones play crucial roles in maintaining the pregnancy, increasing blood volume, eventually shifting to initiate labor and facilitate birth.
The increased progesterone, estrogen and oxytocin can lead to heightened awareness and feelings. This is perhaps less of a filter in responding. Emotions often come to the surface more easily while pregnant—sometimes from joy, sometimes from stress, fears or concerns or sometimes totally unexplainable.
You can support your friends by listening—really listening—without trying to “solve” anything or offer advice unless its asked for. Empathizing—asking if there’s anything you can do—and offering support are invaluable.
Creating, growing and nurturing a developing human being are hard work.
As a result, pregnant women can feel unusually tired. This excess tiredness might result in more yawning, looking bored or not feeling up to her usual pace. The experience of tiredness can range from moving a little more slowly to almost debilitating fatigue.
Blood volume increases by 40% during pregnancy, requiring the heart to work harder. The increased heart rate, in combination with emotional stress, difficulty sleeping and preparations for baby all make for a tired mama.
While some women keep up their pre-pregnancy pace of work and social plans, often women need to head to bed earlier, take naps or do less. Adjusting social plans to accommodate for your pregnant friend and understanding when she can’t pull off the usual late Friday nights out together is a sweet way to keep connected and support her.
As the baby takes up more and more space in the abdomen there is less room for the pelvic and abdominal organs and more pressure on joints.
Thus, it takes more time for pregnant women to comfortably move through their days. For many women accustomed to exercising and keeping up a fast pace of life, the difference in how their bodies move while pregnant can be frustrating. Transitions—from getting out of the house in the morning, to getting out of the car—can feel awkward and cumbersome, take longer and sometimes result in grouchy feelings and pained expressions.
Express your understanding and be patient with your friend, she’s doing the best she can.
Decreased space for the abdominal organs, combined with increased blood flow and the relaxation of smooth muscles, usually means pregnant women need to pee more often.
They also need to eat smaller meals more frequently—their caloric needs increase in order to fuel the baby, yet there is less space in their stomach due to increased abdominal pressure. Your pregnant friend might be constantly snacking, drinking water and going to the restroom—these are important ways they take care of themselves and avoid pushing through feelings of hunger or thirst.
Letting her cut you in line for the bathroom and sharing your emergency snack (extra points if it’s high protein and you have some dark chocolate too) might save the day for a grateful mama-to-be!
There’s the joke of “pregnancy brain” and “mommy brain” meaning that pregnant women and new moms just can’t quite remember everything or keep their schedules straight.
“Pregnancy brain” is a wise adaptation our bodies make, a way of making sure pregnant mamas main focus is growing a baby. It is temporary and a side effect of the hormonal action of pregnancy. It can also mean that sometimes women don’t make it on time, double book themselves or forget that one important thing they were supposed to bring with them.
Again, expressing your understanding and love makes such a difference!
All of the above—heightened emotions, fatigue, moving slower, the need for breaks and pregnancy spaciness —can result in pregnant women looking (and feeling) grouchy, reluctant, angry, bored, worried or sad.
Honoring—not taking personally—where they are in each moment respects their journey as an individual, growing this baby and getting ready to transition to motherhood.
Your friends yawning, sighing heavily, taking longer, forgetting, and feeling grouchy are all great signs that you have a friendship where she is comfortable and able to take care of herself.
You are not responsible for “fixing” anything. Instead, you are providing the safe loving space for her to experience the beauty, mystery and challenges of her life in the moment. What a gift!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Author: Andrea Dixon