Crying Spells During Pregnancy 2022: Causes & Effects on Unborn Baby

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

crying during pregnancy

A pregnant woman typically experiences a rollercoaster of emotions that are mostly caused by hormonal shifts. The shifts are further triggered by changes in estrogen and progesterone production by the placenta. 

Pregnant women tend to have more estrogen levels during their pregnancy than at any other time of their life. During all trimesters of pregnancy, crying spells and mood swings are nothing to be worried about. 

If you find yourself crying over the slightest things, no need to worry – it’s perfectly normal! While crying spells may not significantly impact most pregnant women, persistent and excessive crying may indicate various underlying mental health concerns such as prenatal maternal mental distress, anxiety, or depression. 

Keep reading as we explore the causes of crying spells during pregnancy and the potential effects it has on the fetus. 

Is It Normal to Cry A Lot During Pregnancy?

Yes, it’s perfectly normal to find yourself crying in early pregnancy. Even if you consider yourself a naturally emotional or sentimental person, you’re bound to cry a lot more during the nine months of pregnancy. 

Pregnancy crying during your first trimester is perfectly normal; here’s where your body secretes the highest levels of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are mostly responsible for feelings of sadness, irritability, and mood swings. 

Pregnancy, being a huge milestone, might cause feelings of fear or anxiety in some women. The sense of something happening to the baby may cause you to panic or feel emotional. 

Crying during pregnancy’s 2nd trimester might increase due to the increase in hormonal shifts as they typically plateau around this time. You’re going to feel a lot more on edge during the second trimester. 

Uncontrollable crying during pregnancy’s 3rd trimester may be a result of chronic anxiety or the stress that arises when your responsibilities double up. 

The thought of going into labor at any time and in the ability to meet hospital bills may make you panicky and stressed. As your emotions run high, so do the crying spells. 

Causes of Crying During Pregnancy

“Why do I suddenly feel sad and cry for no reason?” If you ask yourself this question a lot during your pregnancy, there are plenty of reasons (both physical and emotional) why that happens. Here are some of them:

Hormones

There are three hormones, among others, that are produced during pregnancy: human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), progesterone, and estrogen. 

The fluctuations in the production of these hormones may trigger crying spells and send different signals to the brain, thereby impacting a woman’s mood. These hormones are responsible for setting off certain emotions and making her cry, most times with no provocation.

Stressors

Various stressors might pop up at any time during your pregnancy. Common stressors include family relationships, doctors’ tests, labor anxiety, your fetus’s well-being, and so on.

Physical Discomfort

One of the most prevalent causes of crying during pregnancy is bodily discomfort. The pains and aches around or within the uterus may make it impossible to carry out everyday tasks or even enjoy your sleep at night. This kind of discomfort is bound to create a feeling of hopelessness and bring about a few tears every now and then.

Pregnancy Comments

People around you may notice your weight gain and give their opinion about it. Some are harsher than others. These seemingly unending comments about your physical appearance will make you feel “judged,” making you emotional enough to cry from time to time. 

Milestones in Pregnancy

There are those special moments during your pregnancy that will inevitably make you emotional. Some of them include seeing your baby in an ultrasound image, hearing your little one’s heartbeat for the first time, your first baby kick, etc. These are happy tears that you shouldn’t fight back at any given time.

A first-time pregnancy can be more emotional than others because you have no frame of reference to compare these new and strange symptoms, all of which will add undue worry to your pregnancy experience.

Does Crying and Depression During Pregnancy Affect Your Baby?

Occasionally crying does not affect the development of your fetus in any way. Depression, on the other hand, may have significant negative effects on your pregnancy due to maternal cortisol (stress hormone) effects on the unborn baby. Your baby may suffer any of these complications as a result of the mother’s bouts of depression:

  • Small for Gestational Age (SGA) birth[1] 
  • Excessively low birth weight due to preterm birth or SGA
  • Abnormal behaviors such as minimal facial expressions, increased irritability, reduced focus, and diminished activeness.
  • Learning difficulties

Antidepressants during pregnancy to treat depression should not be offered casually. Doing so may cause issues such as irritability, poor feeding, fast breathing, and tremors in the newborn. Issues such as severe breathing problems and heart defects have been reported but are very rare. 

However, untreated depression, when clinically significant, can be dangerous to the mother–even life-threatening.

Remember to consult your medical provider about any medications being prescribed before you start taking them to help ease your emotions and keep you in check. 

How to Deal with Crying Spells During Pregnancy

Here are a few tips to limit your crying episodes and keep your emotions in check:

Get Adequate Sleep 

crying during pregnancy

Insufficient sleep may increase stress levels[2] and make you super-irritable. Not sleeping enough is also known to worsen pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and risk of Cesarean section or longer labor. Make it a habit to sleep between seven to nine hours every night. 

If you struggle with sleep at night, over-the-counter medications with diphenhydramine are safe enough to induce sleep. While you may not have control over how well you sleep after your new baby comes, you do have considerable control in getting adequate sleep before they do.

Prioritize your Needs

crying during pregnancy

You’ll agree that it’s tough carrying a pregnancy and being the center of focus at home and work. That’s when stress, anxiety, and depression kick in. You’ll cry a lot if you’re driven to meet others’ needs while neglecting your own. 

Be unapologetically true to your wants and needs. Take care of yourself the best way you can. Go to a movie on weekends, spoil yourself with relaxing parlor treatments, go shopping often, and so on. 

Ensure that you consult your physician before opting for a massage. The point of enjoying yourself is to overwhelm yourself a lot less–think of it as a reset. As you’re there for everyone around you, be there for yourself twice as much. 

What about sex? We are all sexual creatures, and the need to express intimacy sexually is what resulted in your pregnancy. Depending on your hormonal levels or the possibility of physical discomfort, it’s safe to do so if you can benefit from sexual intimacy. If it hurts or you’re “not in the mood,” don’t. It’s safe to have sex at any time during pregnancy (except in the labor room!).

Exercise More

crying during pregnancy

Being physically active is proven to boost your mental health[3] and improve your energy. Engage in gentle exercises such as swimming, walking, doing yoga, and so on. These will boost your happiness levels and enhance your mood significantly. 

Besides decreasing your crying episodes, regular exercises can also help with common physical discomforts such as fatigue and backaches. Regular exercises can also prevent you from developing diabetes that arises from pregnancy (gestational diabetes)[4]

Exercise is also a huge stress reliever and helps you develop the stamina necessary for delivery and labor. The risk of Cesarian delivery gets lower[5] when the expecting mother is in good physical shape. Exercise is better if you supplement it with a good diet and quality prenatal vitamins

Exercise may not be good for pregnant women with medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma. Exercise is also harmful if you experience pregnancy-related problems like:

  • Spotting or bleeding
  • A weak cervix
  • A background of premature births
  • A low placenta
  • Recurrent or threatened miscarriage

Limit Your Screen Time

It helps to limit your time on the phone, laptop, TV, iPad, and basically every other piece of technology that may trigger negative pregnancy emotions.

You can start engaging yourself in fun and engaging habits such as painting, writing, reading, or even listening to music. All these are engaging enough to block out feelings of stress, severe depression, fear of missing out, and so on. 

When you limit your screen time, you’ll also sleep better. 

Spend Time with Other Pregnant Women

Talking to pregnant women will make you feel more positive about your pregnancy. They will serve as an excellent support group. 

If you struggle with body positivity issues, you can learn from other pregnant women how to deal with that and so much more. Talking to other expectant mothers helps ease the apprehension and fears that come with pregnancy. 

Suppose you have no woman around you who is pregnant. In that case, you can sign up and join an online mom support group that will help you express your fears, share your personal stories, learn from their stories, how to handle postpartum depression, navigate parent-child relationships, and give you emotional support. 

The Bottom Line

Crying during pregnancy is perfectly normal. You must take the necessary steps to counter the stress-causing facets of everyday life. Pay attention to your body’s needs and try to maintain a positive environment for your body to secrete happy hormones more often. 

Talk to a family member or your partner about your feelings. If possible, assess your moods from time to time. 

Uncontrollable crying, however,  is a clear indication of stress and depression. In such a case, we recommend you consult a certified medical professional. They will help you manage your mental health issues in the best possible way. They will also consider the risks and benefits of prescribing anti-depressants and guide you on how to take them.


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  1. Osuchukwu, O.O. and Reed, D.J. (2022). Small for Gestational Age. [online] Nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK563247/#:~:text=Small%20for%20gestational%20age%20(SGA,the%20neonatal%20period%20and%20beyond.
  2. Alotaibi, A.D., Alosaimi, F.M., Alajlan, A.A. and Bin Abdulrahman, K.A. (2020). The relationship between sleep quality, stress, and academic performance among medical students. Journal of family & community medicine, [online] 27(1), pp.23–28. doi:10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_132_19.
  3. Taylor, C.B., Sallis, J.F. and Needle, R. (1985). The relation of physical activity and exercise to mental health. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), [online] 100(2), pp.195–202. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1424736/
  4. Padayachee, C. (2015). Exercise guidelines for gestational diabetes mellitus. World Journal of Diabetes, [online] 6(8), p.1033. doi:10.4239/wjd.v6.i8.1033.
  5. Phillips, D., Lee, B., Eho, A., Meireles, J., Sadaf Dabeer, Ingram, K. and Amason, J. (2022). Are prenatal exercise volume and level different between c-section and natural birth groups? [online] [email protected] State University. Available at: https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/undergradsymposiumksu/spring2022/presentations/298/

Written by:

Lisandra Fields, BSHM

Medically reviewed by:

G. Michael DiLeo

Lisandra Fields is a freelance medical writer from Pennsylvania who creates articles, blog posts, fact sheets, and website content for health-related organizations across North America. She has experience working with a wide range of clients, from health charities to businesses to media outlets. She has experience writing about cancer, diabetes, ALS, cannabis, personality psychology, and COVID-19, among many other topics. Lisandra enjoys reading scientific journal articles and finding creative ways to distill the ideas for a general audience.

Medically reviewed by:

G. Michael DiLeo

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