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Trimester-by-Trimester Guide to Your Emotions

Pregnant, you say? Expect to be bombarded with well-meaning advice about fetal development, Lamaze breathing and clever ways to add folic acid to your diet. This is all certainly very useful, but let's cut to what's really on your mind. Have you recently:

  • Exploded at your husband because he brought home butter-pecan ice cream instead of mint chocolate chip?
  • Rushed to stores to buy maternity clothes, only to loathe the sight of them a month later?
  • Burst into tears over the latest mushy commercial?

From the moment your baby-to-be starts growing, your emotions embark on a nine-month roller-coaster ride filled with exhilarating climbs and startling dips, and you have no idea of what lies ahead.

"It's just your hormones," everyone says with a shrug. True enough: Wildly fluctuating progesterone and estrogen levels do account for some of pregnancy's infamous mood swings. Still, understanding the cause of these changes doesn't curb them.

In fact, what goes on in a pregnant woman's psyche is extremely complex and too seldom talked about, according to Arlene Matthews, a New York City psychotherapist and the author of Excited, Exhausted, Expecting: The Emotional Life of Mothers-to-Be. Often, Matthews says, pregnant women are expected to wear a happy face despite morning sickness, worries about the baby's health and fears about their own inadequacies.

"Women think that if they express any negative feelings, they'll be perceived as a bad mother," she says.

British pregnancy and childbirth expert Sheila Kitzinger, author of The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth agrees.

"Emotions in pregnancy are often underplayed," she says. "But some apprehensions about having a baby are healthy. They help prepare you for the complex business of motherhood."

And it's these same intense feelings that can lend a fantastic, almost spiritual side to preparing for childbirth.

"Pregnancy rips away the mundane and puts you in touch with what's really important to you," says Jennifer Louden, author of The Pregnant Woman's Comfort Book.

As you wind your way through the emotional chaos of pregnancy, let the following guide reassure you. Even if your own experiences detour a bit, you'll find comfort in that old cliche: I'm not crazy; I'm just pregnant.

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