Sleep disturbances, hormonal changes, or emotional stress may all affect a person’s dreams during pregnancy. The dreams may feel more vivid, realistic, strange, or frightening than usual.

Pregnant people commonly dream about themes related to pregnancy, such as parenthood and birth.

Usually, pregnancy dreams are not a cause for concern. However, they can be stressful and impact sleep quality and mood. Persistent nightmares can also be a sign of emotional distress, for which a person may want to seek support.

This article will look at when pregnancy dreams typically occur and what causes them. It will also discuss what a person can do about disruptive pregnancy dreams.

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Pregnancy dreams are the more frequent, vivid, or memorable dreams a person can have when pregnant. They may be:

  • intense
  • realistic
  • detailed
  • strange or frightening
  • anxiety-based

People also often report having dreams related to birth and becoming a parent. Common themes include:

Changes to a person’s dreams are common during pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester.

In a 2016 study of 406 women aged 16–40 years in the last trimester of pregnancy, more than 11% reported nightmares once a week or more often. About two-thirds of participants reported baby-related dreams.

A 2018 study published in the journal Dreaming also indicated that pregnant people experienced more representations of pregnancy and parenthood in dreams than a nonpregnant comparison group.

Dreams about pregnancy and birth may be more common in younger people and those who have not given birth before. Researchers suggest this could be because those who were pregnant for the first time may experience more stress during pregnancy.

It is unclear what causes pregnancy dreams, but several factors may contribute. These include:

Sleep disruption

Pregnancy can cause discomfort and make a person wake up more often, impacting their sleep cycle. They may wake because they need to urinate more frequently, if they are experiencing other pregnancy-related symptoms, or if the fetus moves.

These disruptions can affect the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep when dreams occur. A person who wakes up during REM sleep may remember their dreams more easily, making them feel more frequent or vivid.

Anticipation, worry, or stress

Some scientists believe that dreams may help the brain process emotions. Pregnant people commonly experience intense emotional changes, particularly in the first and third trimesters.

Research also indicates that pregnancy-related anxiety may increase during the final weeks of pregnancy.

One study from 2013 notes that dreams about the fetus’s safety were common in the early part of the third trimester, but declined after 36 weeks when the risk of pregnancy complications begins to drop sharply.

Learn more about managing mental health during pregnancy here.

Hormone levels

The hormones the body produces during pregnancy also impact sleep, which may alter someone’s dreams. However, there is little research on this topic.

A 2015 study notes that sleep often increases during the first trimester. Over time, though, sleep length and quality decrease on average. Right before giving birth, the body produces more oxytocin, which can make insomnia worse.

Another study of more than 400 participants indicated that over two-thirds of pregnant people had poor sleep quality.

If a person sleeps more lightly than usual as a result of hormonal changes, it is possible they may wake during REM sleep and remember their dreams more clearly.

People who notice that dreams are affecting their daytime energy levels or mood may wish to try tips to help improve sleep quality, such as:

  • keeping a consistent sleep schedule
  • creating a relaxing bedtime routine
  • trying breathing exercises or pregnancy yoga
  • avoiding using screens in the bedroom or in the hours before sleep
  • avoiding caffeine, especially in the afternoon or evening
  • managing any pregnancy-related symptoms that disturb sleep

Dreams that are more vivid or frequent may not require any further action. However, if someone has distressing dreams, they may wish to talk this through with someone.

Persistent, anxiety-based dreams may indicate that a person is experiencing considerable stress. A mental health professional can help people understand what is causing their anxiety dreams and how to manage them.

People may also find it helpful to join a parent group or antenatal class to alleviate some of their worries and find reassurance.

Find more tips on how to sleep when pregnant here.

Occasional nightmares are common. However, frequent nightmares can be a sign of nightmare disorder.

People with nightmare disorder have frightening dreams that significantly affect their ability to sleep, mood, and daily life. Frequent nightmares can also be a symptom of mental health conditions, such as posttraumatic stress disorder.

If someone is concerned about the frequency of their nightmares, they may consider speaking with a doctor or therapist. It can also help to keep a sleep diary to record how often nightmares happen, what they are about, and their impact.

Dreams during pregnancy can be more vivid, realistic, frequent, or distressing than usual.

Sleep disturbances, hormonal changes, or emotional stress may bring them on, particularly during the third trimester. People can try taking steps to manage stress and improve sleep quality.

Pregnancy dreams typically do not require any treatment, but if a person has persistent and distressing dreams, they can speak with a doctor or therapist. It may also help to talk with other pregnant people about their experiences.