Expert: Nicola Davies explains your pregnancy dreams

Bizarre and vivid dreams are common in pregnancy and can vary according to trimester. Dr Nicola Davies explores some of the common dream images and themes likely to appear in each trimester, and what they might signify.

Why do we dream vividly while pregnant?

Women tend to dream more during pregnancy than at any other time in their life. Some dreams are wonderful and filled with imagery of ceremonies, birthdays or other joyful celebrations. Other dreams are frightening, leaving you horrified and filled with anxiety upon waking. What all of these dreams have in common, however, is that they reflect normal physical and emotional changes taking place in a mother-to-be. Including her wishes and concerns about the baby, her relationship with her spouse, and her life in general at this time.

During pregnancy, your dreams are likely to contain more intense emotional content than usual. This is because of the radical and dramatic changes your body is undergoing. Any anxieties, apprehensions, and excitement find reflection in your dreams. The content of dreams also parallels physical and emotional changes at different stages of pregnancy, and tend to reflect your hopes and fears for your baby.

Researchers believe that certain dream images and themes are common to specific stages of pregnancy. For example, pregnant women typically dream of buildings (such as manufacturing plants or shipyards) that tend to get larger as pregnancy progresses, or water in various forms – ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans.

The images in dreams understood as symbolic messages or information about many aspects of the dreamer’s life have varied meanings:

  • Buildings that transform could refer both to changes in the body as well as to places where new things are made.
  • Water imagery is often linked with new life.

First trimester

Water

Beginning in the first trimester, water imagery in various forms is common. In these dreams, you might be swimming, wading, standing or even drowning. Besides reflecting an awareness of the presence of water in the womb, such imagery can also refer to changing emotions in relation to the growing child living in the water in your womb. Often, the foetus will be depicted in these dreams as little creatures, such as fish or tadpoles, suspended in water.

Images of powerful oceans, floods, and breaking waves seem to be especially common nearer the delivery date but can also appear in the first trimester. These are symbols of childbirth and can reveal a woman’s anxiety about the event, including fears that her waters might break in inappropriate places. Some women dream about drowning or being swept along in a powerful current, which is indicative of anxiety about herself and her baby surviving the birth.

All of a sudden, a flash flood rushed through the village, and I was swept down the streets and battling to keep my head above the water.

Vehicles

Various vehicles, especially large ones such as buses or trucks, are also common dream images in the first trimester. These could be a reflection of a woman’s awareness of the way her body feels and moves: slowly, awkwardly and not quite under her control.

In my dream, I was driving a car, but with a spare tyre around my waist. This made driving and manoeuvering the vehicle clumsy, which was exactly how I was feeling about being pregnant.

Second trimester

Small animals

Dreams in the second trimester often contain images of baby-like animals, an obvious reference to the growing, unborn infant. How you feel about your unborn child, your pregnancy, the baby’s father, and your life in general often determines how you relate to the animals in such dreams. Furthermore, animals in dreams often depict how you relate to your instinctual life; friendly animals show you trust your instincts, while fear-inspiring creatures represent the opposite. Women who feel threatened by being pregnant might have frightening animals appearing in dreams, while the appearance of lovable cuddly creatures reveals a developing bond with your unborn child. The appearance of baby animals in dreams can be understood as the psyche’s way of giving you the chance to mentally rehearse being a mother.

Our Related Content
Overwhelming need for co-sleepers in Irish maternity hospitals

  “I often dreamt that I was a dolphin swimming happily alongside my child.”

Third trimester

Baby dreams

Dreams featuring babies increase in the third trimester and often reflect fears and desires for the unborn child, including visions of what the baby will look like or that the baby will have no physical deformities. This is also the time when mothers-to-be, prompted by dream material, will decide on possible names or even get clues about the baby’s gender.

Travelling or journeys

Travelling or journeys, including ones through tunnels or corridors, are common dream themes in the third trimester. For many, the journey is filled with uncertainty. Such dreams are typical of the third trimester and can be read as emotional commentaries of the unknown. They also indicate an exciting journey ahead when the baby arrives.

I am boarding a plane, going off to a foreign country somewhere. I have a bad feeling like I don’t really want to go.

Natural imagery

Anxieties about going into labour are natural, and dreams during this time are likely to feature powerful natural imagery like earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, bursting dams or gigantic tidal waves. These dreams are a psychic rehearsal for labour and delivery, and are indicative of the extremely powerful physical and emotional transformations that await the mother-to-be. Although intensely anxiety-provoking, they are merely a form of preparation.

Erotic dreams

It’s not uncommon for pregnant women to have erotic dreams during the third trimester. These are partly psychological compensations for having their regular sex life interrupted. However, erotic dreams also reveal fears about whether you will continue to be physically attractive after giving birth.

Nightmares

Although understandably worrisome, a pregnant woman’s happiness and excitement about pregnancy doesn’t prevent nightmarish content from showing up in dreams. Indeed, such imagery is common throughout pregnancy. Recurring nightmares usually indicate a specific unresolved emotional issue from the past. Their occurrence during pregnancy is normal and to be expected given the heightened, novel changes the mind and body are undergoing. It’s only when nightmares cause persistent, significant interruptions in normal daily functioning that professional assistance should be sought.

Unfaithful spouses

Pregnancy changes your body, so it is natural that women may have doubts about their attractiveness. Thoughts about whether your partner still desires you and concerns about whether you will get your body back after pregnancy can translate into dreams filled with anxiety about your spouse’s faithfulness. One woman dreamt consistently about her husband having affairs, thereby expressing her dream deep-seated insecurity and vulnerability.

maternity & infant

Originally posted 2014-10-31 12:21:05.