Crying During Pregnancy: Causes And Effects On Unborn Baby

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Several hormonal and physical changes can cause crying in pregnancy. These changes bring a lot of stress to women, and some women may find it more difficult to cope with stress than others. Pregnancy can be overwhelming and lead to mood swings and make you cry.

While crying does not have significant side effects for most pregnant women, excessive and persistent crying during pregnancy may indicate other underlying mental health problems such as depression or anxiety. Read on the post as we discuss the causes, side effects, and management of crying during pregnancy.

What Are The Causes Of Increased Crying In Pregnancy?

The following causes could lead to crying in pregnancy:

1. Hormonal changes

Increasing levels of estrogen and progesterone can make a pregnant woman experience strong emotions and make them tearful often. Once the body adapts to the fluctuating hormonal levels, the emotions may settle down. However, some women may continue to undergo emotional ups and downs throughout the pregnancy (1).

2. Mood swings

Physical stress, fatigue, changes in metabolism, and hormones can cause many mood swings in pregnant women. They are more common in the first trimester, between six and ten weeks. These mood swings may reappear in the third trimester (2).

3. Stress

Stress arising from the thoughts of labor, childbirth, childcare, finances, etc., can cause stress at any stage of pregnancy and is more common with the first child. It may lead to crying during pregnancy (3).

4. Physical changes

The following physical changes could make an expecting mother tearful:

  • Skin changes such as stretch marks could make it difficult for some women to accept the changes in their bodies.
  • Discomforts of pregnancy such as nausea or vomiting during the first trimester (or throughout the pregnancy), sleep disturbances, frequent urination during the night, and exhaustion of carrying excess weight could trigger crying spells.

5. Emotional moments

Some examples of emotional situations that could make an expectant mother cry include:

  • Watching an emotional scene in a movie or a TV show.
  • Going through the photographs of a young baby or parent-child relationships.
  • Watching videos of baby animals in trouble.
  • Witnessing the precious pregnancy milestones such as seeing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time, seeing the baby on an ultrasound, or feeling the baby’s kick can make it difficult for you to hold back your tears.
  • People commenting on your womb being too small or too big, on your changed appearance in pregnancy, or about how having a baby will change your life, career, and relationship with your spouse may bring an expectant mother in tears.
  • During the second trimester, some women may no longer fit in their regular clothes but are still small for their maternity clothes. Having no good clothes to wear during important social events or official meetings may leave a woman in crying spells.
  • Going past your due date and not having any signs of upcoming labor can make a pregnant mother feel impatient and frustrated.

When Is Crying During Pregnancy A Serious Problem?

While crying and emotional breakdowns during pregnancy are not uncommon, in some cases, crying may also be a symptom of a serious underlying mental condition such as depression.

Depression in pregnancy is called perinatal depression. It is one of the common pregnancy conditions and may affect about one in seven women. The signs and symptoms of depression include (4):

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed.
  • Restlessness
  • Moody behavior
  • Excessive crying or crying most of the time
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Having self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Changes in appetite
  • Problems with decision making, focusing, or remembering things
  • Loss of interest in activities that you liked earlier
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Losing interest in things that were liked previously
  • Feeling weak, tired, and lethargic most of the time
  • Complaining of headache, stomachache, or other pains that do not go away.

Inform your healthcare provider if you notice these symptoms and get the necessary help.

Can Crying And Depression Affect An Unborn Baby?

While occasional crying does not cause any adverse effects on the developing baby, depression during pregnancy may have harmful effects on the developing baby.

Depression in pregnancy may increase the risk for the following (4).

  • Premature birth
  • Babies born small for their gestational age (SGA).
  • Babies born with low birth weight (less than five pounds eight ounces).
  • Babies may exhibit behaviors such as increased irritability, reduced activity levels, reduced attention, and lesser facial expressions.
  • Babies may experience learning difficulties, behavior problems, developmental problems, and mental health conditions after they grow up.
  • Mothers suffering from depression may not pay attention to their nutrition and prenatal checkups. It may cause an impact on the baby’s growth and development.
  • While occasional crying does not harm the mother or the child, a study performed on a small group suggests that negative emotions or life events will increase the pregnant woman’s risk for miscarriage (5).

How To Cope With Crying Spells During Pregnancy?

The following tips may help you manage the crying episodes during pregnancy.

  • Get enough sleep

Little or insufficient sleep can increase stress and make you cry more often.

  • Indulge in permissible physical activities

Gentle exercises can boost your mood and energy. A brisk walk, swim session, a low-impact aerobic class, yoga sessions, etc., can help improve your mood and happiness levels. Exercising reduces the risk of anxiety and depression. However, the doctor may ask you to stop doing exercises in some health conditions (6).

  • Talk to other pregnant mothers

Doing so can help you feel that you are not alone. It may ease your fears and apprehensions associated with pregnancy. Local or online mom support groups can help you share each others’ experiences, personal stories, advice and provide you with the needed emotional support.

  • Do not overwhelm

Do not overburden yourself by preparing the baby essentials before they arrive. Let your friends and family members help you. Excessive mental pressure can cause fatigue, frustration, guilt, and eventually crying episodes.

If you are experiencing severe emotional outbursts or crying episodes, do not hesitate to talk to your loved one or mental health professional since some medicines or psychological counseling may benefit you. While advice from family members or friends can be enough for some women, professional advice could be helpful for others. Engaging in relaxing activities or practices can help you achieve good mental health during pregnancy.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Does my baby in the womb know when I am crying?

Reports suggest that babies in your womb can sense all your emotional aspects and feelings similarly to you. Therefore, when you cry during pregnancy, your baby might feel this emotion to be their own (7).

2. How long do crying spells last in pregnancy?

Depending on the underlying reasons, crying spells may last from a few days to a few weeks in pregnancy. However, it is ideal to seek medical attention promptly if you experience frequent or severe crying spells (with or without apparent reasons) while pregnant (8).

Key Pointers

  • Stress, mood swings, and hormonal changes in pregnancy can increase crying without specific reasons.
  • Physical discomforts such as pains, skin changes, and emotional events or scenes can make a pregnant woman cry.
  • Occasional cries in pregnancy are normal. However, women who cry more frequently should seek medical care to evaluate mental health concerns such as depression.


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
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Dr. Ritika Shah

Dr. Ritika Shah is a certified lactation counsellor from iNational Health Care Academy, Singapore and a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. She did her graduation in Dentistry from KM Shah Dental College. During her clinical practice, pediatric dentistry was her particular area of interest, and she constantly thrived to inculcate... more

Dr. Richa Hatila Singh

Dr. Richa Hatila is an experienced gynecologist practising in Varanasi. She did her MS in Obstetrics and Gynaecology, DNB, and a Fellowship in Laparoscopic surgeries (FMAS). She is currently associated with Shubham Hospital and Sah Speciality Clinic in Varanasi.