What Causes Pregnancy Nightmares and Dreams?

How to Manage Disrupted Sleep and Dreams

Pregnancy nightmares are common and usually triggered by the emotions related to this period in your life. For example, if you're anxious about labor and delivery going well, you may have a vivid dream that you have a hard time with childbirth. Changing hormones play a role in this, too.

This article looks at pregnancy nightmares and other dreams, why they occur, and what you can do to try to stop them.

Sleeping pregnant woman in bed
Andrea Gomez / Getty Images

How Dreams Change During Pregnancy

Dreams are common among all people—those who are pregnant and those who are not. However, the frequency, vividness, and content of your dreams may be very different during pregnancy compared to before or after.


The content of dreams during pregnancy may reflect a different collection of daytime experiences and concerns.

Pregnant women frequently dream about their fetus, for example, and the anxiety associated with possible birth complications may provoke nightmares.

Dream vs. Nightmare

A nightmare is a type of dream, but one that is unique in that it causes fear or uneasiness. The topic of the dream centers around fear, sadness, despair, disgust, or mix of these emotions.

There may be behaviors associated with these frightful experiences, including confusional arousals, which is when you're awake but not fully aware and, thus, act very unusually.

Fortunately, just like in other times of life, nightmares and other dreams may not mean anything in particular. There is no reason to be overly concerned about the content of bizarre or distressing dreams. These will pass.


Dreams seem to occur more often after you conceive and may become even more frequent as gestation progresses.

For example, you may experience more dreams in your third trimester versus, say, your first trimester or pre-pregnancy.

Causes of Pregnancy Nightmares and Other Dreams

The unusual nature of pregnancy nightmares and dreams may reflect your changing psychological state. Pregnant women can have quickly changing emotions and mood swings throughout the day. This distress may manifest in nightmares.

Regarding the increase in frequency, it's possible that you aren't actually dreaming more, but you may be remembering your dreams more and in greater detail than at other times. Dream recall can increase because pregnancy can bring on sleep fragmentation.

Hormonal changes can disrupt sleep in pregnancy. And as you progress:

  • Physical discomfort may cause you to sleep lightly or wake up often during the night.
  • Increased emotional stress in anticipation and preparation for labor and birth may disrupt sleep.
  • Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep may become restricted, an interruption that could lead to vivid dream recall.

Do Nightmares Affect Pregnancy?

There is little evidence to suggest a connection between upsetting dreams and the ultimate physical outcomes of the pregnancy for either the mother or the child.

If you're pregnant, it's important to be aware of your emotional state. If depression or anxiety becomes a concern, seek support. Start by talking to a partner, family member, or friend. If the feelings are intense and occur regularly, however, talk to a healthcare provider.

How to Stop Pregnancy Dreams

Taking steps to have a good sleep can help you avoid restless nights and unsettling dreams. Getting rid of bad dreams typically first involves improving your sleep hygiene, which means developing healthy sleep habits.

Suggestions for a better, nightmare-free rest include:

  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Follow a consistent sleep schedule, waking and going to bed at the same time every single day.
  • Set up a relaxing bedtime routine such as taking a bath or listening to soft music.
  • Go to bed early enough to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep.
  • Stop using electronics at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • If you go to bed and don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and do a quiet activity with little light exposure.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Don’t eat a large amount before bedtime.
  • Don't drink fluids before bedtime.


Ultimately, it may not be possible to put an end to vivid pregnancy dreams. At that point, it's time to accept the fact that you cannot control your dreams (this is probably a good lesson for parenthood when there's so much that will be out of your control).

To help you manage the feelings that may arise with dreams, you can try these strategies:

  • Just laugh. Sometimes dreams can be absurd. It's tempting to try and analyze what that pink monkey eating your socks really represents, but overthinking it can also drive you crazy. Instead, just laugh it off and don't read too much into the weirdness.
  • Talk about them. Dreams may bring people you haven't thought of in a long time back into your head or make you consider uncomfortable situations. Sharing the upsetting or emotional reactions with a friend, partner, or a professional therapist can help you move past the feelings.
  • Journal. Dream journals are helpful for people at any stage in their life. It can allow you to work through some of the emotions on your own. Your entries may also inspire a creative idea down the road or help you notice themes that your subconscious keeps returning to.

A Word From Verywell

Frequent, vivid dreams are more common during pregnancy. You also may be more sensitive to the themes or messages that dreams seem to convey. The biggest issue, though, is that the increased frequency of dreams may disrupt your sleep. If this happens, discuss it with your healthcare provider and see if there are steps you can take to overcome the disruptions because getting adequate rest is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Healthy sleep habits.

Additional Reading
  • Kryger, MH et al. "Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine." ExpertConsult, 5th edition, 2011, pp. 1582.

By Brandon Peters, MD
Brandon Peters, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and sleep medicine specialist.