Excerpt from The Birth Center Client Manual

As anyone who has ever been pregnant knows, pregnancy is not just a physical state. The hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, particularly with the fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone levels, have a tremendous effect on a woman’s psychological state. Further, pregnancy is a developmental state in itself as the mother and partner prepare for the incorporation of a new member into the family structure. The following is a simple breakdown of some of the psychological changes that may occur during the three trimesters. Keep in mind that everyone is different; each person experiences these changes to varying degrees.

We hope that with the recognition of how normal and common these feelings are, you will be reassured of your normalcy as a pregnant couple.

Keep reading for a breakdown by trimester of physical and emotional changes.

Psychological Characteristics of Pregnancy (Mother)

1st Trimester

  • Joy, ambivalence
  • Physical changes
  • Establishing reality of pregnancy
  • Variance of sexual appetite
  • Beginning of concern with relationship with own mother
  • Begin to form personally relevant, unique, mothering identity, separate and apart from own mother
  • Fear of miscarriage

2nd Trimester

  • “Quiet months”
  • Threat of miscarriage over
  • Beginning of preparation: response to maternity clothes and baby things
  • Feel of movement of fetus
  • Fear of injuring baby
  • Dependency transfer to partner
  • Realization that changes cannot be controlled
  • Eagerness to involve partner by having him or her feel the baby move
  • Increased emotional involvement with partner
  • Overly concerned with partner’s safety
  • Hypercritical of partner’s attitudes
  • Working out shift in dependency from mother to partner
  • Often increased sexual appetite

3rd Trimester

  • Pride and fulfillment
  • Anxiety, anticipation
  • Biologically based dominance
  • May be more religious and transcendent
  • Issues of daily life—hardships, work
  • Interest in baby
  • Nesting
  • Naming
  • Body image feelings
  • Insomnia
  • Concern and irritation with baby, uterus displacing internal organs, kicking ribs, etc.
  • Conflicts: preparing to be a mother, feeling like an infant herself
  • Anticipation of labor—Braxton-Hicks contractions—when is it real?
  • Change from care-receiver to caregiver
  • Worry of precipitous labor and delivery
  • Need for reassurance from partner
  • Beatific phase of existence
  • Desire of friends to participate
  • Heightened sexuality, but psychological and physical factors may inhibit sexual acts
  • Labor and delivery


  • Fascination with death and dying
  • Fear of partner dying and of being left alone with baby
  • Altered state of consciousness: acute openness to inner world, relevance to outer world diminishes to inner emotional lability (refers to something that is constantly undergoing change or something that is likely to undergo change.)


  • What kind of parent will I be?
  • Dreams and fantasies.
  • Vicarious participation.
  • Fear or challenge of taking care of mother and child.
  • Wanting to flee.
  • Fear of additional financial responsibility.
  • Envious competitive feelings.
  • Shifting relationship to partner.

Click here for coping mechanisms related to the psychology of pregnancy.