Pregnancy can be a dreamy period in women’s lives.
Not surprisingly, pregnant women tend to dream about being pregnant as well as about their baby and childbirth.
One study found that all eight pregnant women who predicted their baby’s sex based on a dream were correct—far more accurate than the pregnant women who decided they were carrying a boy because their belly was shaped like a basketball. However, another study found that women who tried to predict their baby’s sex on the basis of their dreams could have done just as well by flipping a coin.
Research suggests that women in their first pregnancy have more pregnancy-related dreams than pregnant women who’ve already delivered a child. And guess what? Expectant dads have them, too.
But pregnancy-related dreams might not be all sweetness and light. Researchers have reported that that pregnant women more often had disturbing dreams than non-pregnant women.
Spurred by previous research, German scientists surveyed 406 pregnant women, four to eight weeks before their due date, about their dreams. For comparison purposes, they also surveyed 496 women who weren’t pregnant about their dreams. Women with severe physical or mental illnesses were excluded from the study.
All of the study participants were asked to rate how frequently they recalled dreams when they awoke in the morning. They rated the frequency of their dreams on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 being never and 6 being almost every morning. In addition, the women rated how often they recalled nightmares on a scale of 0 to 7, with 0 being never and 7 being several times a week. One last question for the pregnant women was about how often they dreamed about the baby, ranging from 0 for never to 3 for “almost always.”
Sure enough, the pregnant women reported having more frequent nightmares than the women who weren’t pregnant, the researchers found in their just-published study. More than 1 out of 9 of the pregnant women reported having nightmares at least once a week, compared to just over 1 out of 50 of the non-pregnant women, the researchers found. The greater they said they were stressed out during the day, the more frequent their nightmares. In addition, two-thirds of the pregnant women—especially younger women and those who had never given birth-reported dreaming at least “sometimes” about the baby in their womb.
Women who have insomnia during pregnancy might have a greater risk of postpartum depression, but whether frequent nightmares during pregnancy might be linked to mental health disorders after delivery isn’t known, the scientists wrote. Interestingly, one study found that women with postpartum depression reported having fewer scary dreams than those who did not, but that could be due to a reduced ability to recall dreams in people with depression, the authors of the new research noted.
The scientists concluded that routine medical care of pregnant women should include asking them whether they’re having nightmares. If many do, it would be interesting to see whether methods that have been shown to curb nightmares in other groups would also help pregnant women, the researchers said. Such measures include “confrontation,” or recording the dream, and “coping,” or imagining a more satisfying dream ending—like the birth of a perfect, adorable baby.