Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Pregnancy & Dreaming

Many pregnant women report drastic changes in the nature and the content of their dreams, which sometimes causes alarm, anxiety and confusion. This article addresses the theme of dreaming in pregnancy and attempts to offer some explanations for this phenomenon. If you are pregnant and have any worries about your health and wellbeing, please do not ignore them. My bottom-line advice is to always seek professional medical attention for your own peace of mind. 

Often, pregnant women claim that their dreams are more vivid, intense and bizarre than usual, and strangely, there are some types of dream which seem to commonly occur in pregnancy. Fathers-to-be (or non-male partners in LGBT+ relationships where one partner is pregnant and the other is not) will also be likely to experience changes in their dreams - reflecting their mental and emotional processes as they prepare for a life-changing event, and perhaps some of their anxieties and concerns about the pregnancy and wellbeing of the mother and child. The nature and content of the dreams of the non-pregnant partner may depend on their gender and life experiences, so each dream experience, while some generalities can be drawn, will be unique to the individual.

However, in pregnant women, the changes in dreaming may also be caused by physical reasons as well - the dreaming mind is responding to changes in the body of the dreamer as much as their psychological or emotional state at this very significant stage in life.

Why does pregnancy cause changes in dreaming? One potential reason is that pregnancy causes huge disturbance in the normal sleep cycle, and therefore impacts on dreaming. 

Dreams mainly occur in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of the sleep cycle. REM sleep is a light form of sleep, where you are close to waking. Here is an illustration of the normal sleep cycle: 

In an average or typical sleep cycle, you will see that you go in and out of REM sleep periodically, with the longest period of REM sleep taking place just before you wake. This is why we tend to remember the dreams which happen just prior to waking up far better than those which take place at earlier stages of REM sleep in the sleep cycle. Dream recall is linked to to the recency of the dream: if you wake up while in REM sleep, you tend to remember the dream you just had better than if you had sleep through the night. 

The more times you wake up, the more times you will enter REM sleep, as each stage of the sleep cycle is repeated. The average person spends 20 - 25% of the sleep cycle in REM sleep and the dream state. This means that waking during the night increases the change of experiencing and recalling more dreams - this has been shown through research into sleep and dreaming. Additionally, pregnant women often require more sleep, and may be taking more naps in addition to sleeping for longer periods at night.

In pregnancy, many things can disrupt sleep and cause you to wake periodically during the night (body temperature; discomfort and cramping; movement of the baby in the womb; frequent need to urinate; general anxiety or stress etc) - all of these things will lead to increased periods spent in REM sleep and increased chance you will wake from a dream and remember it more clearly. Some research suggests that an increase in the hormones oestrogen and progesterone may be responsible for vivid, bizarre and memorable dreams during pregnancy. 

Additionally, it may be that certain vitamins, supplements, medicines, dietary changes etc, may be responsible for causing noticeable differences in the quality or content of the pregnant woman's dreams. If the woman has for example,  quit smoking (and is using nicotine replacement therapies which are known to have a huge impact on dreaming and the potential for nightmares) or recently given up drinking alcohol, or using recreational drugs, these lifestyle changes which accompany a healthy pregnancy, may cause an alteration in dreaming, just as they would in a non-pregnant person. 

'There is a greater amount of actual dreaming and dream recall when a woman is pregnant than at any other time during her life', says Patricia Garfield who has authored a book which covers this topic, Women's Bodies, Women's Dreams (1988). Garfield, who is a co-founder and former president of The International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), states that 'the dreams will relate to her condition of pregnancy, the trimester she is in, and what is going on in her body at the time'.

All of the vivid, weird and bizarre dreams women report experiencing while pregnant can be a way for them to come to terms with their new role as a parent. Tore Nielsen, director of the Dream and Nightmare Laboratory at the Hopital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal, in Canada, states that this is all part of the normal 'mental remodeling process'. In fact, some dream analysts and experts who work with pregnant women have suggested that discussing the themes which occur during pregnancy is a very useful stimulus for raising underlying issues related to the pregnancy, such as changes in the body or anxiety about their relationships or ability to cope with a new baby. 

The psychological state of a pregnant woman is undergoing a process of change and growth, which parallels what is happening physically to her body: 'Pregnancy dreams are nature’s way of assisting the woman through the process of transformation from woman to mother' claims Raina M Paris, author of The Mother-to-Be’s Dream Book (2000). Dr Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern a physician at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, is in agreement, claiming that the 'mental pregnancy' a mother experiences is just as profound as the physical one.

Obstetrician, Dr Gerard DiLeo explains that dreams act as a form of  'clearing-house' to help expectant mothers come to terms with both the physical and emotional transformation they are experiencing. He states: '[f]or first-time mothers especially, the bizarre dreams are a very real acknowledgement of the emotional investment of a pregnancy...This responsibility can weigh a bit heavy. I explain to my pregnant patients that strange, anxiety-producing dreams are simply the psyche’s way of processing all that the conscious mind is already rationalizing'.

There is a strong correlation between the stage of pregnancy and general themes which occur during this period:

First Trimester: 1 - 3 months
Nature / fertility / fecundity

Second Trimester: 4 - 6 months
Changed architecture/buildings reflecting growth of body
Journeys and travel

Third Trimester: 7 - 9 months
Specific dreams about labour, birth and the baby

Common dream themes for pregnant women:
  • DREAMING ABOUT CONCEPTION - dreams about conception are very common in early pregnancy. The conception may not be depicted as an act of sexual intercourse, it may be much more symbolic and metaphorical than that. Many women report seeing fish implant themselves into the bed of a stream, for example. A very common dream theme is for the woman to dream of being penetrated by a snake, or having a snake or serpent-like creature entering her body in some way. This about the symbolic significance of a snake - it is a very phallic object and likened to the male penis. The dream is one reflecting the process of sexual intercourse and conception. See also ANIMAL DREAMS, below.

  • DREAMING OF LABOUR / GIVING BIRTH - this seems obvious: your mind and body is preparing for the event of birth. Anxiety dreams or nightmares about birth are very common in a first pregnancy, or where a woman may have experienced a previous traumatic pregnancy or birth. Some birth dreams will show unrealistic or morbid interpretations of what birth will be like, for example, the baby's limbs emerging from the woman's body suddenly, when she is in a public place, or the baby bursting through the flesh of her abdomen, like an alien. The dream is not a prediction of what the birth will necessarily be like, it is just a subconscious projection of something which naturally you are anticipating or even fearing. Desire and hope for an easy birth may be reflected in a dream where the baby simply pops out spontaneously, or appears from nowhere. Remember, that dreams may have the advantage of preparing us mentally, or providing some kind of psychological practice or training for something we will be facing in our waking life, so dreams about labour and birth may be a very positive occurrence for this purpose. Research has drawn conclusions regarding women who experienced short labours v long labours. A strong connection was found between dream content and length of labour. The results found that 94% of women who gave birth quickly had been assertive in at least one dream about birth, reflecting their self-confidence and mental empowerment. Of those who endured long labours, 70% had suffered nightmares about birth where they felt like victims who were inadequately prepared for the process of birth.

  • DREAMING OF GIVING BIRTH TO ANIMALS OR INANIMATE OBJECTS - dreams of giving birth to animals or inanimate objects is very common. In Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he reports of a woman dreaming of giving birth to a seal. Other common animals in pregnancy dreams include litters of kittens or puppies; laying an egg, or having a snake/serpent-like or reptilian creature emerging from the body. It may cause concern for the pregnant woman, who fears that dreams of giving birth to non-human offspring - or even monsters/alien-beings is a sign that their unborn baby is deformed or something terrible is going to happen, but this is not the case at all. These dreams are preparing the pregnant woman for the unknown, and usually the animal or object seen in the dream is a dream metaphor for the human baby, overlaid with the natural anxieties of the pregnant mother, who fears the unknown. The fact that some animals - especially baby mammals - cause instinctual nurturing feelings in humans should also be considered. The dream is preparing the pregnant woman for her role as a carer and protector of her baby (see ANIMAL DREAMS, below also).

  • DREAMING OF THE APPEARANCE, TRAITS, GENDER OR NAME OF THE UNBORN BABY - many women will experience dreams in which they are able to see their baby and identify certain physical or personality characteristics. Some women report that the physical or personality characteristics are negative or undesirable and this causes fears of anxiety. This is a natural dream response to a fear of the unknown, and not a prediction of the future. While some women can see the gender of their child, others may not be able to clearly identify whether the baby is a boy or a girl, or what it looks like. This is again, the dream reflecting the natural, expected anxieties of the unknown. Dreaming of the baby's gender simply reflects that gender is a theme which is on the mother's waking mind - especially if the gender has not yet been revealed by an ultrasound scan. Dreaming of the gender may also reflect a latent preference to have a baby of that gender. However, dreams are not like looking into a crystal ball and  predicting the future, so any dream in which the baby's gender is apparent should not be seen as 'evidence'. Some women may dream of a name for their unborn baby. In some cultures, the name which appears in the dreams of the pregnant mother hold significance and are deemed to be a sign that this is the correct name for the baby, but for others, the dream is just a process of the imagination, and the names which occur in the dream have no special meaning.

  • DREAMING OF A GROWN-UP CHILD - some pregnant women dream that their unborn child is grown-up. It may be because the mother is concerned that she will be soon responsible for a vulnerable and needy newborn, and the dream presents her with a matured child, who is less 'demanding' - showing her that she has the capability to raise the baby and protect it. If the mother is planning to return to work after the birth of her baby, the dream of grown-up children may reflect a worry that she will miss out on some aspects of her baby's growth and development.

  • DREAMING OF YOUR PARTNER CHEATING - this is a common dream theme, especially in the second trimester, when the body is undergoing (sometimes drastic) changes and the frequency or nature of sexual relations and intimacy with a partner may be adapting. Many pregnant women have a loss of confidence in their body and sexual attractiveness, and waking concerns that their partner may be turned off by weight gain, or beginning to perceive them as a maternal mother-figure rather than sexy. These concerns are being reflected in dreams about the partner cheating or having an affair, and should not be taken as evidence that this is happening in reality. Instead, the pregnant woman having these dreams should attempt to discuss them with her partner so that he might be able to offer her some support and reassurance. 

  • DREAMING OF DEAD RELATIVES - dreaming of dead relatives is a way of connecting the past (the family heritage or lineage) with the present and future - i.e. the new life about to begin with the birth of the baby. Pregnancy commonly causes dreams about the cycle of life, birth and death, because they are all concepts which are present in the conscious, waking mind as well. 

  • DREAMING OF CHILDHOOD HOME / FRIENDS - dreaming of the past may be a reflection on the past self, in preparation for the new adventures of motherhood and changes which are coming with it. The pregnant woman may be saying 'goodbye' to her old identity, as she approaches her new one, as mother. It is not surprising that a new mother may reconnect with her own childhood self in her dreams, or even see herself as a child again.

  • DREAMING OF MURDER / DEATH - as horrific as it seems, themes of death or violent murder often feature in the dreams of pregnant women. This isn't something to be alarmed about. Death in dreams should never be taken literally as a sign of actual death. Usually, death dreams are interpreted as signalling an ending or change in something. 

  • DRIVING / VEHICLES - vehicles, on a basic level, symbolise a journey or the process of moving forward in life. This reflects the situation facing a new mother and therefore dreams of driving are common for pregnant women. Also consider the fact that vehicles may carry cargo or passengers - symbolically this reflects the physical state of the mother, who is carrying precious cargo, in the form of her baby. Dreaming that you are driving unsafely or in some form of accident may indicate natural anxieties and concerns about the child in the womb - the mother is like the 'vehicle' for the baby who is a 'passenger' in her body, and the 'safe driving' of the mother is necessary for the protection of her child. If the vehicle in the dream is difficult to steer or maneuver, it may be a reference to the changes in the woman's body, which make it physically harder for her to move freely

  • JOURNEYS / TRAVELLING - again, the symbol of the journey can be interpreted as a possible indication of the life-changing journey the pregnant woman is embarking upon, either becoming a mother for the first time, or adding another child to her family. The journey may present itself as easy and taking a fast, direct route; or be a confusing, directionless or strenuous journey, where the mother dreams of being unprepared (not having packed a suitcase, unable to find travel documentation etc), getting lost or being confronted with obstacles. It is likely that the dream is reflective of her mental and emotional state at this time - she might be positive and optimistic and 'taking everything in her stride' or alternatively, weighed down, burdened and 'lost' in the enormity of the forthcoming adventure, unable to see which direction she is supposed to be travelling in. This is because everyone reacts differently to life's challenges. It may not necessarily be the prospect of motherhood which is causing anxiety in the dream, but other aspects of the mother's waking life, which is impacting on her stress levels. This is again a normal response, but if the pregnant woman has any concerns over her mental, emotional or physical well-being, the best thing to do is to seek medical advice to be on the safe side. It may just be that the woman requires some simple reassurance that everything is fine, or that she needs to reevaluate what it is in her waking life which can be changed to minimise and reduce her stress levels and help her relax in preparation for the arrival of her baby.

  • BUILDINGS / ARCHITECTURE - pregnant women often dream of buildings. The building which appears in the dream may be a simple room or a huge soaring skyscraper. The building may be a factory or workshop of some kind, as these are common types of buildings which occur in the dreams of pregnant women. Think about the symbolism of the building and what it might represent - a factory is a place where things are assembled, put-together and produced - reflecting the process of growing a baby inside the womb. The factory is symbolic of the act of creation. Also consider that a room or building is a place where people can be contained within. The room or building may be symbolic of the pregnant woman's womb. It is also very common for pregnant women to dream of much larger, taller buildings as their bodies changes and grows in later pregnancy.

  • BEING TRAPPED / SUBMERGED UNDER WATER - Often these dreams can reflect the fact that the pregnant woman is identifying with her unborn baby, who is trapped in the womb (in the amniotic fluid), but they may also indicate that she is feeling 'trapped' by the physical constraints - and pressures - of the pregnancy, or feels overwhelmed by the experience. The pregnant woman is aware that motherhood - to an extent - represents a loss or reduction in freedom; another human being will be dependent on her for survival, protection, support and care. It is unsurprising that this will provoke anxieties which are reflected in dream content. This shows that the pregnant woman is consciously aware about her forthcoming responsibilities and taking them seriously.

  • WATER / SWIMMING - this is a common dream theme during pregnancy, especially in first trimester dreams. Think about how we all start life - in the amniotic fluid of the mother's womb. It is therefore also common for pregnant women to dream of water-dwelling creatures - such as fish. Tadpoles - symbolic of the developing foetus - are also very common dream themes in early pregnancy. As the pregnancy progresses, many women report dreams of swelling oceans, crashing waves and flooding. These dreams may relate to the changes in the female body at this time, or simply anticipations of 'waters breaking' - a sign that labour and birth is imminent. Swimming is an incredibly common pregnancy dream theme as well, as the uterus and other parts of the pregnant body fill with fluid.

  • NATURE & FERTILITY SYMBOLISM - in the first trimester, it is very common for a pregnant woman to dream about symbols of fertility and fecundity. These dream symbols may manifest as gardens with flowers or plants in bloom, or ripe fruit. 

  • BLOOD - this is a theme which frequently occurs during menstruation or pregnancy. For a pregnant woman, blood may represent the new life she is carrying. It may also be an indication that she feels exhausted, or emotionally drained. On a more literal level, given that pregnancy causes an increased blood flow, it may be that the dream is reflecting the woman's awareness of the changes within her body, or perhaps the fact she associates blood loss with the birthing process.

  • DREAMING OF HAVING A NON-PREGNANT BODY - many women have dreams in which they are not pregnant - or they are, but show no physical signs to indicate this. These dreams may just be based on pre-pregnancy memories (we all dream about our earlier lives, such as regressing to childhood or previous situations we have been in), or simple anxiety about the changing shape of the pregnant body, and a normal desire to regain your former figure.

  • ANIMALS - dreaming of animals, especially baby animals is another very common theme. These animal dreams can be either cute or threatening for some pregnant women. The nature of the dream and the animals which appear in it may be influenced by the woman's waking thoughts and feelings about pregnancy, her partner and her unborn child. Nurturing animals in a dream occurring during pregnancy may reflect the motherly instincts and protective qualities of the woman. This would also be the case if the woman dreams she is defending a vulnerable animal from an attack of some sort. A dream about a threatening animal may simply be a reflection of the woman's anxieties about the arrival of her child. In the first trimester, metaphorical babies may be represented by small animals that grow (during the course of the pregnancy) into larger animals. Siegel states that: '[i]n a way you can look at [these dreams as] almost as having an evolutionary value because the 9 month pregnancy is when the member of the species prepares to protect and take care of their offspring that’s coming...Part of this growing prenatal psychological attachment that begins [in dreams] continues on when the child is born'. As stated, above snake dreams appear to be incredibly common during pregnancy. Snakes generally relate to instinct and intuition, and during pregnancy, women tend to be more intune with their instinctual side. This may be why snake dreams occur at this time - it is a sign that the woman should listen to and respect her natural intuition.

  • GAMES / SPORT - dreaming about games or sports is extremely common. This is symbolic of the excitement and thrill of pregnancy. Towards the end of the third trimester, many women report dreaming of boredom or waiting - especially waiting for a score or result. This is a reflection of the natural impatience for the arrival of the child. After 9 months of gestation, there is no wonder the pregnant woman is keen for the arrival of the baby, and bored of waiting in anticipation!

  • CONTROL & POWER - many pregnant women dream of scenarios where they are required to be assertive and take control. This may be within the context of a nightmare, where they have to fight off an enemy or negative force, or a more pleasant dream where they acquire superpowers which they are able to use in imaginative ways. This is a sign that the woman is preparing for the birth of the child, and the challenges of being a mother. Taking control and gaining power are positive symbols of motherhood, preparing the woman for becoming the protector and carer of her vulnerable baby. These dreams may sometimes seem scary or daunting, but it is a sign that the subconscious is responding to forthcoming changes in the woman's life and the role she will be taking in relation to her child.

  • EROTIC / SEX DREAMS - many pregnant women report an increase in erotic or sexual dreams while pregnant. There may be a psychological or a physical reason for this. Firstly, the woman may have some anxieties about her changing body and how pregnancy/birth/motherhood will affect her sexual attractiveness, relationship with her partner and sex life. A reduction in the amount of sex the woman experiences at this point in life, may lead to a compensation in the dreamworld - the sex dreams are 'making up' for what is not happening (or happening less frequently or with less intensity) in her waking relationship. Another reason is the fact that there is increased blood flow in the lower body and the growing baby is putting additional pressure on the pelvic area of the pregnant mother, which can lead to sexual dreams. Note that in non-pregnant women (and men!), laying on your front while asleep is known to increase the likelihood of erotic or sexual dreams due to blood being directed into the pelvic area and the pressure on the sexual organs/genitals from laying in this position.

  • ACCIDENTALLY HARMING / ABANDONING / FORGETTING THE BABY - pregnant women may dream that they accidentally drop a baby, or that the baby they are holding in a dream breaks into pieces. Some women dream of losing or forgetting the baby - such as leaving it in a public place. These anxiety-dreams are also common after the baby's arrival. This is because the woman may be dealing with the overwhelming feeling of being responsible for protecting and nurturing their child, and fears and concerns about performing this task well are reflected in their dreams or nightmares. Dreams should not be taken literally at face value, but it is true that dreams also do reflect underlying concerns and worries, so if the pregnant woman has any doubt about the health of herself or her baby, she must consult a doctor, who will be able to check the situation and provide reassurance and advice. Nielsen suggests that dreams about accidentally harming, breaking, abandoning or forgetting a baby may be a sign the pregnant woman does not feel adequately prepared (psychologically) for motherhood. In interpreting the meaning of such dreams, attention should be paid to emotional themes, rather than the content. It is the underlying emotions which reveal more clues as to the meaning and significance of the dream, and unlocking these underlying emotions will enable the pregnant woman - or new mother - to discuss these issues and access the right support for her and her baby.

  • DEFORMITY / MISCARRIAGE / STILLBIRTH - please try not to worry if you have nightmarish dreams of deformity in the foetus/baby, miscarriage or stillbirth. These are common dream themes, reflecting normal fears of the unknown and concerns about safeguarding and protecting your baby. There is no expectant mother who doesn't at least once, avert their mind to the worry that their unborn baby is at risk: every mother wishes for a healthy and happy child. The first thing to do, if you have dreams of this nature, is to seek medical reassurance. Doctors are typically very sensitive to the instincts and intuitions of pregnant women and will be able to act on  any real concerns, whether it be performing a health check on the mother or baby, or providing additional support which will help put the expectant mother's mind at rest. The other thing to remember is that dreams are not always reflective of reality in a literal sense; they are symbolic and complex in meaning. They are not an accurate prediction of the future or determinative of what is actually happening in waking life, even if they do correspond with real-life events and experiences. 

  • GENERAL NIGHTMARES - nightmares tend to happen when we are at our most emotionally vulnerable or experiencing stress and anxiety about something in our waking life. Therefore nightmares which occur in pregnancy are completely natural, and may reflect a range of concerns faced by the pregnant woman, such as changes to her body; the pain of birth; coping with a new baby; or her relationship with her partner.

Common dream themes for expectant fathers:
There are 3 types of dreams which seem to be most common amongst expectant fathers, although of course, this doesn’t mean there are no other popular dream themes which may occur at this time:

  • FEARS THAT FATHERHOOD WILL COMPROMISE MASCULINITY - during the first few months, men with pregnant partners are likely to have many more sexual dreams than usual, according to an intriguing study conducted by psychologist Alan Siegel in Berkeley, California. At the same time he is having an unusual number of sexual dreams, an expectant father often dreams of protecting and caring for his mate. The sexual dream theme usually reduces in frequency as the mother-to-be progresses into her second trimester. Early in their partner’s pregnancy, the fathers-to-be in his study dreamed of having sex with their partners, with other women, with prostitutes, or sometimes with other men. Siegel speculates that the protective feelings a man develops toward his partner and unborn child may be threatening to his masculinity. His sexual dreams and other traditionally ‘macho’ visions (such as triumphs on the football field or in warfare/fighting) may express a need to be more ‘masculine’ and offer subconscious reassurance. This research is premised on ‘traditional’ notions of masculinity, which is a perspective which comes under challenge in gender debates. Whether the father-to-be has anxiety over his masculinity and how this presents itself in the dream would largely depend on variable factors, such as socio-cultural contexts and whether the man identifies with traditional notions of masculinity or gender stereotypes in the first place. 

  • FEELING EXCLUDED - during the second trimester, an expectant father's dreams become less dominated by sexuality and more protective and nurturing. He may find himself thinking and dreaming about his family or heritage. It is often common for the expectant father to experience himself being pregnant and giving birth in the dream. Although he recognizes the female’s unique role as child-bearer, these dreams may reflect his desire to share the experience and process of pregnancy and birth on a more physical level. Expectant fathers often feel left out at this stage of their partner's pregnancy. More than half of subjects studied in Siegel’s research dreamed of feeling excluded and alone. Confiding troublesome dreams to one's partner can help men overcome feelings of loneliness and keep the couple in touch, while trading happy dreams can increase confidence and intimacy. 

  • ANTICIPATING / CELEBRATING FATHERHOOD - a father-to-be will often anticipate the birth of a child in his dreams just as his pregnant partner does. It is common for fathers dream of finding babies or of being given them, sometimes during elaborate ceremonies or rites which appear to have deep symbolic significance. While a woman may be dreaming of the work involved in her forthcoming labour, her mate may be concentrating on dream celebrations of the baby's birth. Dreams of this kind indicate acceptance and valuing of the child whose arrival is imminent.

Nothing in this article replaces the need to seek professional medical treatment if there are any concerns as to mental or physical health and wellbeing. Always trust your instincts and obtain proper advice if in any doubt. However, pregnant women may consider a few additional pointers on how to deal with the changes in pregnancy. 

First, take opportunities to communicate and discuss any issues - or dreams - with your partner. This can help in re-establishing intimacy and trust, and encourage your partner to share and empathise with changes emotional, psychological and physical changes during pregnancy that they may either be unaware of, or simply lack understanding in. Remember, this may all be just as scary or overwhelming for them, and being open and candid can help them feel connected to the experience and encourage them to provide support and care. 

Obviously eating healthily and wholesomely, taking regular, gentle (and medically-endorsed) physical exercise, staying hydrated and ensuring you are getting the right vitamins and minerals in your diet are all starting points for pregnant women. Consider adding regular meditation sessions as well - this will assist in relaxing and re-focusing the mind and reducing stress and anxiety levels at this crucial time. Meditation need not be complicated: if you are unable to participate in a guided meditation session in a group environment, find some Youtube videos which will teach you some basic techniques, or act as a guided session in the comfort of your own home. Alternatively, you could just play some relaxing music or other sounds and take some time out from your busy day to settle into a comfortable position, with your eyes closed and clear your mind, focusing on your breathing. A simple technique, such as this, can do wonders for your stress levels. 

Treat yourself to a spa session, specialising in pregnancy massage and/or aromatherapy treatments. It's always pleasurable to pamper yourself and escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life, but pregnancy can cause extra tension, both physically and mentally, whether it be aching muscles, water retention, exhaustion or just the result of hormonal fluctuations taking their toll on emotions. Indulging in enjoyable and relaxing treatments can be beneficial for the mind and body, and gives a pregnant woman an opportunity to focus on herself before the arrival of her baby. Involving your partner in massage tailored for pregnant women (with the assistance of a book or kit) can also help with intimacy and getting your partner to feel more involved.

It is essential that pregnant women get enough restful and restorative sleep. If you are having difficulty sleeping, consult your doctor, and ask about natural sleep aids and remedies which are safe to take during pregnancy. 

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