When I was expecting my son Dashiell, I had dreams that still make me blush: intense, relentless and bizarre sexual reveries. I finally dared to broach the topic with my doctor. "I'm essentially growing a penis inside me, right? Is that why my dreams are wilder than a teen boy's?" I asked. He laughed and said that there was scant research on pregnancy and erotic dreams, but that it's quite normal to have graphic dreams while expecting.
Recently, more researchers have studied the effect pregnancy has on dreams. I asked Jessica Lara-Carrasco, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at the University of Montreal's Dream and Nightmare Lab, why moms-to-be seem to have so many crazy dreams. "During pregnancy, your body has to adjust to massive changes quickly. Dreams are a way of handling the stress and adapting to your new life," she says. Still, while plenty of women attest to having more vivid DREAMS while they're expecting, experts don't know exactly what brings these wild reveries on. Sleep patterns change in pregnancy, so you log more REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the stage when your brain is most active and dreams are vivid. And because sleep is more fitful, you might find you wake up mid-dream more often.
As for my own tawdry reveries, research shows moms-to-be don't have more sexual dreams than non-pregnant women. "But I've never had so many dreams about making out with ex-boyfriends," I explained to Lara-Carrasco, who offered one possibility: As the baby changes position, you feel contractions, which could provoke a sexual response -- even an orgasm -- that is integrated into your dreams. Jill Wodnick, a birth doula trainer and Lamaze childbirth educator at Montclair Maternity in New Jersey, agrees. "When you have contractions, oxytocin, the hormone that brings you to climax, is released and could cause you to orgasm," she says.
Mystery solved, I probed the meaning of other dreams preggos (AB Facebook fans included) have had. Read on for an awakening!
Dream No. 1: Forgetting Where You Put Your Newborn
"The dream I remember most was one in which I had given birth, and the baby would be missing. I'd wake up with the 'I thought you had her' startle," says Rory Evans, of Brooklyn, New York. Many women fear this dream is a premonition. "Patients share dreams about misplacing the baby, or harm coming to the baby," says Marjorie Greenfield, author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book. "I tell them that dreams are your brain's way of working out fears and anxieties. A dream is only a projection of what you are dealing with. It can't predict the future." Your unconscious is priming for your life's seismic next chapter!
Dream No. 2: Birthing a Critter
Greenfield dreamt she gave birth to a cat. "I knew the dream was a way for my psyche to give labor a practice run," she says. Dreams about animals prep you for the helpless creature that will be in your care soon enough. As pregnancy progresses, the animals will often grow older and develop human qualities, says Veronica Tonay, Ph.D., author of Every Dream Interpreted. "In the first trimester, you may dream about bunnies and, later, talking rabbits," Dr. Tonay says. "These images are often friendly and make us feel safe." Similarly, some moms dream they can take their baby out of their belly, play with him, and then put him back. A dream dress rehearsal!
Dream No. 3: Mommy to a Monster
During the first and second tri, moms-to-be may dream their baby is dangerous or that they are in danger. My own mom dreamt I was a cockroach! In fact, according to Sleep, 42 percent of preggos have nightmares. "Hostility and fear of the baby are part of early pregnancy; this type of dream lets you work through your emotions," Lara-Carrasco says. After all these years, it's good to know my mom was just processing her anxiety!
Dream No. 4: Teeth falling out
When I was pregnant with my first son, Conrad, I had a recurring dream that I was making a presentation at work, and my teeth were crumbling. By the end, my teeth would be all over the conference table. Crumbling teeth is symbolic of losing control, Lara-Carrasco explains. The dream's recurrent nature shows I was super stressed about how my pregnancy would affect my work, she says. Nearly a quarter of AB Facebook fans have frequent dreams of their teeth falling out, so if you've had one, you're in good, gummy company.
Dream No. 5: Celebrity Schmoozing
"I dreamed I was on a plane with my family and the president. The plane started to take off, and I rushed to get off, and then I ended up in a fireman suit, battling the Gladiator Fire somewhere in Arizona," recalls Desire Gonzales, an AB Facebook fan. Dreams about fame and heroism are very common -- and proof that you're internalizing the importance of your role as a mom. You're going to be one of the most influential people in your kid's life -- yup, a genuine superstar!
Originally published in American Baby magazine in 2011. Updated in 2013.
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