Most pregnant women have some experience with mood swings, which are usually most intense in the first and third trimesters. Whatever their cause (e.g., hormonal shifts), mood swings can stress your partnership and relationship satisfaction.
While mood swings are, by all means, a normal part of pregnancy, it’s sometimes wise to seek professional help. For example, if mood swings are extreme, last more than a couple of weeks without relief, and/or have a significant negative impact on your ability to function, or on your partnership, consider speaking with a counselor, or ask your doctor for a referral.
In most instances, however, you and your spouse can work together to limit the impact of mood swings on your partnership. What follows are some ways to do so; as with anything, one size does not fit all. If one of these approaches doesn’t work for you or your spouse, move on or devise strategies of your own:
Educate & Normalize: Together, confirm how normal mood swings are during pregnancy. If you’re not familiar with the physical changes that contribute to them, read up on the topic, and encourage your spouse to do the same. In other words, educate yourselves about pregnancy mood swings, so you can normalize their occurrence. Doing so doesn’t negate their impact, but encourages you to perceive them as regular parts of the pregnancy process, instead of unwelcome intruders.
Make a Patience Pact: Like other pregnancy symptoms, mood swings ebb and flow. Agree to be patient with this part of the process, while reminding yourselves, and each other, of the endgame: your new baby. Of course, your moods might sometimes preclude you, or your spouse, from being tolerant. The idea isn’t to always be patient, but to recognise that, just as this is a waiting game for your bundle of joy to arrive, so too must you wait for challenging symptoms, like mood swings, to subside.
Enhance Understanding: Sit down with your spouse and describe what you feel during mood swings. In turn, encourage your spouse to share what he/she experiences when your moods shift dramatically. Resolution isn’t the goal—after all, you often can’t control how you feel—but you can ramp up mutual understanding. After hearing each other out, repeat back what you heard your spouse express about their experience of your mood swings, and ask them to do the same with you. Then, correct inaccuracies or fill in any blanks in each other’s descriptions. Sometimes, just understanding each other’s experiences can lessen the impact of mood swings.
Call Them Out: Sit down with your spouse and and consider giving your moods, especially the darker ones, silly names (preferably, not of friends or family). The funnier the names the better, as long as you’re both in on the joke. Now what? If possible, give your partner a heads-up that “scary Sue” is back, so they can brace themselves, or retreat accordingly. Test out having your spouse announce when they believe “weepy Wilma” has waltzed into the room. This approach can lighten the mood, so to speak, and remind you that your mood swings don’t define you, or your relationship together.
While pregnancy mood swings can sometimes strain partnerships, they’re a normal part of the process. Working with your spouse to lessen their impact, and strengthen your connection, will enhance your relationship now and well after your baby is born.