What to Know About Strange Pregnancy Dreams

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Pregnancy dreams are known for being a bit odd. Some expectant parents dream about seemingly silly things, while others dream about their worries, like leaving the baby in a strange or dangerous place. There also can be an uncomfortable moment of adjusting to reality when you wake up and wonder if your dream really happened. 

A variety of factors affect what we dream about and how well we recall our dreams. While strange dreams can be confusing and even disturbing at times, know that they are quite common when you're pregnant.

Causes of Unusual Dreams in Pregnancy

Emotions, hormonal changes, and sleep disturbances all contribute to the weird dreams that pregnant people—and their partners—often experience. Here's a closer look at the common causes of unusual dreams.

Emotions

Dreams are influenced by the events in our lives, especially emotional ones that cause us to reshape how we think of ourselves and significant others. Pregnancy is definitely an emotional time for many people, and not just those in their first pregnancy.

With each new child comes a transition period when parents must mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare to welcome a new person into their lives. Pregnancy can be a time of great joy, anxiety, stress, and and even fear; feeling all of these emotions (even at the same time) is completely normal.

It isn't surprising that during pregnancy many expectant parents (both mothers and fathers) experience vivid and unusual dreams. Studies show that in the last trimester, expectant parents experience more frightening and worried thoughts about themselves and their unborn baby.

These thoughts reach their most graphic at about the seventh month and then decline until the baby's birth. Researchers suspect this is the parent's mind "undoing" their mental image of the baby in order to prepare for the real version.

A 2014 study found that pregnant women in their third trimester had significantly more bad dreams and nightmares than non-pregnant women.

Hormones

Hormonal changes play a role in both dreams and sleep quality during pregnancy. Progesterone, for example, causes more nighttime awakenings and longer time awake during the night in pregnant women.

In addition, pregnancy hormones affect the type and intensity of emotions, as well as how we process them. This, in turn, can affect our dreams.

Sleep Disturbances

Keep in mind that it's also very common to have poor-quality sleep when you're expecting a baby. A 2021 meta-analysis of over 15,500 pregnant women found that 25-39% experienced insomnia, with the higher number representing those in their third trimester.

Frequent awakenings mean that you are more likely to wake up during or just after a period of REM sleep, which is when dreams happen. This can make your dreams seem more real or intense. They also may appear more frequent or life-like because they are easier to recall.

Common Types of Pregnancy Dreams

Pregnancy-related dreams tend to contain more negative elements (fear, danger, pain, threats, and conflict) than the dreams of non-pregnant people. These dreams also increase in frequency as the pregnancy progresses.

Some common themes in dreams of pregnancy include:

  • Cheating (either by you or your partner): This can be a symbol that you are wanting reassurance of your partner's support and help. It may also be a reflection of your concerns about the ways your body is changing.
  • Conflict with your partner: Worries about how a baby will change your relationship with your partner may come up in unsettling dreams about arguments or other disagreements.
  • Danger or injury to your baby or you: This may be your mind's way of working out the real-life fears you have about pregnancy and birth.
  • Details of your or your baby's body: This can be a sign that you are mentally preparing to meet your child in-person.
  • Difficulty during labor and delivery: Anxieties or fears about giving birth may lead to delivery-related dreams.
  • Losing your partner: Worries about parenthood and its added responsibilities can manifest as dreams of being alone.
  • Pregnancy: This theme is most common in the dreams of first-time parents.
  • Your adequacy as a parent: This type of dream is also particularly common among first-time parents, who are entering uncharted territory as they prepare to care for and raise a child.
  • Your identity as a parent: You may be ambivalent about becoming a parent or unsure of how your identity will change as a result. Your mind can work through these feelings with dreams.
  • Your new child's gender: This is another way that your mind anticipates the arrival of your little one.

Your dreams might be so vivid and unsettling that you would consider them nightmares, and even these are not uncommon. Studies show that up to half of pregnant women experience nightmares, so you are definitely not alone.

However, pregnant people having nightmares are also more likely to be experiencing stress during the daytime.

If you are having nightmares often (once a week or more), it's worth taking a look at your stress level. Think about ways to lessen your load, and talk to your partner and/or doctor about any concerns you have about parenthood or other changes in your life.

Functions of Dreams

The mind is an amazing—and somewhat elusive—part of the human body. It's hard at work dreaming and forming mental connections even while you're fast asleep.

Studies suggest that dreams in pregnancy have several important functions. One is to help you psychologically prepare for childbirth, often by dreaming (especially in the third trimester) about labor and delivery.

This is your mind's way of "trying out" the unknown to prepare you for the real-life experience of giving birth, which will probably be unlike anything you've encountered before.

By linking recent emotional events to past memories, dreams serve as a way for our minds to reach a healthy balance between what has happened in the past, how we are emotionally processing current events, and the ways we're preparing ourselves for impending change.

Researchers think dreams also help us to work through the emotions (both positive and negative) that come with a massive life change such as pregnancy and having a child.

Far from being a disturbing or harmful occurrence, unusual pregnancy dreams are your body's way of restructuring how you see yourself and other significant people in your life, including your new child.

How to Cope

While strange dreams are a completely normal part of pregnancy, if they are worrisome or affect the quality or quantity of your sleep, here are a few coping strategies:

  • Keep a regular bedtime routine: This may include a warm bath with relaxing music, reading before turning out the lights, or anything else that helps you wind down. Doing the same thing night after night helps your body prepare for sleep.
  • Hit the bathroom before bed: Getting up frequently to urinate is a common complaint during pregnancy. Holding off on liquids and emptying your bladder before going to sleep will lessen the chance that you'll need to get up during the night.
  • Talk to your partner: Sharing your weird dreams with your significant other can open up a conversation about the hopes, fears, and thoughts both of you are having about the birth of your baby.
  • Try a pregnancy pillow: Created in all shapes and sizes, pregnancy pillows provide support wherever your body needs it, allowing you to find the most comfortable sleeping position.
  • Turn down the lights: As with a bedtime routine, toning down the evening lighting in your home signals to your body that the day is over and it's time to relax.
  • Turn off screens at least 2 hours before you go to bed: The blue light from TV, computers, phones, and other devices can interfere with sleep.
  • Write our your fears and concerns: Journaling can help you process your emotions and thoughts about parenthood during the day, essentially working through the same emotions consciously that your mind works through unconsciously while dreaming.

A Word From Verywell

If you are having some unusual dreams during your pregnancy, even ones that are unlike any thoughts or dreams you've had before, know that you are in good company. Strange pregnancy dreams are completely normal.

They are simply a sign that your mind is drawing important connections as you get used to the idea of welcoming your new child into the world. Know that as your due date approaches, your dreams will gradually return to normal.

If you are worried and/or your dreams are affecting your sleep quality, talk to your doctor about your concerns.

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