In human pregnancy emotions and behavior may change as markedly as the shape of the body. The basic tendencies remain the same, but variations and exaggerations of previous behavior can sometimes be expected. There are several reasons for. this. First of all, in comparison with the nonpregnant state, the pregnant woman is under the influence of different reproductive hormones. Many women (and their husbands as well) already know from practical experience that the hormonal
variations of the menstrual cycle can have a marked effect on behavior. Then, too, pregnancy places an additional burden on most parts of the body. The weight of carrying the baby is an added strain on muscles; there is need for more blood and more oxygen, and for more nourishment; the kidneys, the heart, the lungs, and even the skin have added burdens.
Growing a baby and preparing the body for the stress of childbirth require extra quantities or protein. vitamins, and minerals. The increased physical stress in pregnancy, although often merely challenging to a woman who has maintained good health habits, can be devastating to one already chronically short of sleep, short of exercise, and short of balanced meals. Along with pregnancy also come changes in day-today behavior, and these changes may cause stress.
The expectant mother is learning to play a new social role involving greatly increased dependency. Her role is now quite different from that of the unmarried girl or even the married girl who has supported herself in a job to which she has been able to devote most of her energies. A woman late in pregnancy or one with a new baby to care for cannot easily support herself without risking possible harm to the baby. She needs someone else to supply her basic needs for monetary support. while her physical and emotional resources turn toward the baby.
Nor is her new financial need the only dependency of her new role. As her energies go into growing and carrying the increasingly heavy baby within her, she is also physically and emotionally less able “to take care of herself.” Adapting to this more dependent role constitutes an emotional stress that comes just when gestation is giving increased bodily stress. In addition to physical and social stresses, basic psychological shifts may also be under way. Dr. &bring has pointed out the existence of a developmental crisis in pregnancy of the same son that is faced by women at the start of menstruation and again at the menopause.
The outcome of this emotional crisis of pregnancy, she emphasizes, will be of profound importance to the future psychological health of women. The stresses of gestation appear to cause a disintegration of behavior. This is especially true in our society where many helpful props of traditional societies may be missing.
Old conflicts and problems of adjustment that each person normally lives with may become intensified and aggravated in the expectant mother.Unsolved emotional problems with parents and brothers and sisters arc likely to reassert themselves. Family conflict may become more intense.