Why dreams are so vivid and weird in pregnancy

Dreams can be pleasant, scary or just plain weird - even more so in pregnancy.
Dreams can be pleasant, scary or just plain weird - even more so in pregnancy.  Photo: Getty Images

When I was pregnant, my dreams were regular, vivid and scary. I woke in cold sweats, convinced I was being chased by a 10-foot spider, terrorized by a 20-foot shark, and falling off the edge of high buildings with nothing below to save me.

And I know I'm not alone.

Caroline Jones, who is currently expecting her second child, has experienced an increase in the regularity and vividness of her dreams in pregnancy too. In fact, it was one of the first symptoms that made her suspect she was pregnant second time round.

"I've always been a vivid dreamer, but these are different to normal dreams in a couple of ways," she says.

"Firstly, I've had so many sex dreams and, secondly, they are much easier to identify as being a translation of my subconscious thoughts."

Caroline says that she quite often dreams about people and things she's seen that day, or things she has read about on her Facebook feed or in the news.  She also says that she sometimes has up to four dreams a night that she can recall.  For the most part, the dreams are different every time.

"I think the only reoccurring dream I've had has been about my tooth falling out," she says. "Apparently that dream is quite popular in pregnancy, but I also need a filling so it could be that too!"

Caroline's most memorable dream was one where she watched a snake slither out of its skin in the tree outside her bedroom.

"I can't help but look everyday to see if it's actually there," she says.

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Chelsea Thomas, a mum of three, can relate to waking up and feeling unsure if her dreams during pregnancy were a reality or not.

"My dreams were really vivid and I would regularly dream about my eldest daughter, Mollie, misbehaving," she explains. "I would wake up physically angry and have to spend five minutes calming myself down."

"By the end of the pregnancy this was such a regular occurrence that I felt I had to make it up to her – even though she had no idea!"

So what is it about pregnancy that causes us to have these vivid, regular and memorable dreams?

According to Jane Teresa Anderson, a dream analyst and therapist, women tend to be more wakeful and uncomfortable during pregnancy, so are more likely to toss and turn a bit and be more aware of their dreams.

"Being uncomfortable means lying awake trying to get back to sleep, and that's when we begin to think about our dreams, a process that makes it more likely we'll remember them in the morning."

Anderson explains that the reason dreams appear more vivid and emotional during pregnancy is because of the changes the woman is going through, and, again, the fact that they remember them. 

"Women are processing their emotions, their beliefs and fears around giving up work or taking maternity leave, changes in the dynamics of their relationships, and becoming a mother (for first timers)."

"We tend to remember our dreams when they're more vivid and emotional. These dreams can also tend to wake us up – in fear, joy, disbelief – and this makes us more likely to remember them in the morning too."

Anderson says that one of the most common dreams women tell her is one in which they are giving birth to an animal or monster.

For women who are having vivid or scary dreams, Anderson offers reassurance that dreams are not what they seem, and strongly advises against ever using a dream dictionary for interpretation.

"Dreams are not literal. They are symbolic. They are about YOU and your fears, emotions, expectations, and beliefs, and it's good to know about these," she advises.

"But, as always, the best thing to do if you are concerned in any way about your pregnancy, is to get a check up or see your doctor or midwife."

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