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Why Is My Pregnant Wife So Moody?

Q. Now that my wife is two months pregnant, she's a little scary. One minute she's crying and the next she's laughing hysterically. The same thing happens in the bedroom, to the point where she's all over me one minute and the next she doesn't want me touching her. How long will these mood swings last?

A. Much of what's happening to your wife is beyond her control, so you're going to have to be her lifeline to sanity. In addition to fear, anxiety, and body morphing, your wife will be subject to constant complex biochemical changes: sharp dips in blood sugar, hormonal fluctuations, and water retention. All of these things can cause her mood to shift in a nanosecond.

As a result, you may have to reevaluate the role you've played in your relationship up until now, says Sheila Marcus, MD, director of the Women's Mood Disorders Program at the University of Michigan's Depression Center. For instance, try being more of a caretaker, making sure your wife snacks every few hours to keep her blood sugar steady, drinks enough fluids to avoid dehydration, and rests. Be as kind to her as you hope she would be to you during your worst-ever workweek, and remember that, hey, at least you're not the one who has to give birth.

Most women find that their moods level out by the middle of pregnancy, "but for up to 15 percent, hormone shifts may be particularly problematic," says Dr. Marcus. "In this group, more dramatic changes in sleep, appetite, libido, or energy levels, and even suicidal thoughts, may interfere with daily functioning. In such cases, the involvement of a caring clinician may be essential for proper diagnosis and treatment."

As for your sex life, that, too, will continue to fluctuate as your wife experiences physical changes. The good news is that the majority of women return to pre-pregnancy levels of sexual activity, especially after their babies are weaned.

Holly Robinson is a writer who lives with her husband and their five children north of Boston.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, September 2004.