Why women who hate being pregnant should be able to talk about it

 Photo: Getty Images

For American Thanksgiving this year, singer Kelly Clarkson told Extra she's "super thankful" she's never going to be pregnant again.

Since having her children - daughter River, 2, and son Remington, 6 months - she's had her tubes tied and her husband's had a vasectomy.

Clarkson also said recently she had the "worst pregnancies ever" and that she would "die" if she had to do it again.

Perinatal psychiatrist Dr Ingrid Butterfield says it's "remarkably common" for women to feel the same way. And yet, she says, many find it hard to talk about.

"It's as though women feel that saying there are things about pregnancy you hate is the equivalent of hating your baby, which simply isn't the case," she explains.

She says women often feel this way because they don't make a distinction between the outcome - having a baby - and the actual process of pregnancy.

(She uses the analogy of waxing, saying that people wax because they like the outcome, but that "nobody really sits there thinking they love having their hair ripped out by the roots.")

Instead, she says, we need to see such feelings as a "valid response" to pregnancy, one that has no implications about future parenting.

Hating pregnancy, or simply not enjoying the process "[doesn't] make you a better or worse mother", she says.


But those feelings are something we need to talk about.

After all, some women "breeze" through pregnancy and genuinely love it, but Dr Butterfield says there's a huge chunk of others who don't.

Kathy* was one of them.

While pregnant, the 39-year-old mum from Canberra suffered from painful carpal tunnel syndrome (a condition that affects your nerves in your hand) and developed pre-eclampsia.

She hated being uncomfortable all the time and suffered anxiety as her due date approached.

While she told "anyone who'd listen" about how much she hated being pregnant, Kathy felt "shut down" by some people, who thought she should "just be grateful" she's pregnant.

Clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse, author of The Conscious Mother, says that because of such reactions, many women choose not to air their concerns.

They also keep their feelings to themselves because they don't want to offend those who are struggling to conceive.

"While this is great, because ... [we're] more sensitive to those who go through that experience, I think it's also created this political correctness that if you're pregnant you can't complain about being unwell, or not enjoying it."

"And that's not honouring their experience, nor is it helpful."

If you're currently pregnant and are hating it, the experts advise discussing your feelings with others.

Before opening up, Dr Butterfield recommends starting by "gently sounding out" the person you're planning on talking to, to see their reaction.

"Often you can start with, 'There are things about being pregnant which aren't great ...'

"If you encounter someone who says, 'Oh, I loved it, I'd be always pregnant if I could!', move on.

"You're looking for someone who comes back with, 'Oh god, yes. As soon as the nausea let up, I had two weeks before the carpal tunnel kicked in ...'"

Bouse says it's vital to "explore, understand, share and ultimately resolve" your feelings during pregnancy, so they don't impact on your relationship with your baby after she's born.

If you can't find the right person to talk to, Dr Butterfield recommends seeing your GP.

She says your doctor can address the cause of your issues, while also helping you see that what you're going through is "more normal" than you might think.

* Name has been changed

If you are struggling with anxiety or feelings of depression while pregnant, please seek help immediately.