Ask An Adult: Why Do I Keep Having Dreams I’m Pregnant?
The Debrief: Pregnancy dreams are the 66th most common dream overall (number one is being chased), but what do they mean?
The average adult will spend two hours a night dreaming. That’s a twelfth of your life. It’s almost certainly more time than you spend eating, although I guess that depends on how much of a glutton you are. It’s definitely more time than you spend having sex.
Scientific studies show our brains are intensely active when we sleep, and particularly when we dream. Some scientists believe that, when we dream, our brains interpret and organise information received from the environment around us when we were conscious.
So, having a recurrent dream you remember on waking is usually a sign your brain’s trying to make sense of something that’s going on in your life.
In my case, I keep dreaming I’m pregnant. Sometimes it’s a happy dream: I’m Farrow-and-Balling the shit out of the nursery and can’t wait for the baby to arrive. Other times, the baby explodes out of my stomach like that scene in Alien.
I know I’m not the only person having these dreams. An unscientific study of my girlfriends found that all of us have experienced pregnancy dreams in the last six months, even though none of us are anywhere near having babies in real life.
To get to the bottom of my Sigourney Weaver nightmares, I spoke to Ian Wallace, dream expert and author of The Complete A to Z Dictionary of Dreams, and Dr Roderick Orner, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Lincoln.
Should I be worried about my pregnancy dreams?
Definitely not. In fact, dreaming you’re pregnant is really common. Ian’s analysed over 200,000 dreams, and he tells me pregnancy dreams are the 66th most common overall (if you’re wondering what number one is, it’s being chased).
Dr Orner agrees. ‘One psychological view is that there are certain dreams that are archetypal dreams; they’re dreams about things that feature in all our lives. Pregnancy is one of these archetypes. So the imagery of pregnancy is generated in dreams because it’s something that everyone can relate to.’
Men can get pregnancy dreams too
It’s less common for men to have dreams about being pregnant, although Dr Orner tells me he has encountered male patients who’ve had pregnancy dreams.
But, he says, ‘Dreams about pregnancy are more likely to arrive during a woman’s reproductive phase. So maybe you’re having children, or thinking about children, or in some cases, not wanting to have children – in which case, a pregnancy dream might involve panic.’
I can relate to this. I’ve totally had that panic-filled pregnancy dream, where I don’t realise I’m pregnant until I’m suddenly giving birth on the kitchen-floor, Hollyoaks-style.
Ian agrees women are more likely to have pregnancy dreams. ‘When we create our dreams, we take real-life experiences and make them symbolise things that are happening for us on a subconscious or emotional level that we can’t articulate in another way.
‘As women tend to be more aware of the concept of pregnancy generally, they’re more likely to have pregnancy dreams, particularly in their twenties and thirties, when people around them are having babies.’
Your pregnancy dream might actually have nothing to do with babies
This seems strange, but your pregnancy dream could have nothing to do with children. Ian explains how pregnancy dreams can be about a plan or a project that you’re bringing to life.
‘The fundamental explanation for a pregnancy dream is that you’ve conceived an idea or project in your real life which you’re bringing to fruition, but it’s a laborious process.
‘Maybe there’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders, or there’s a long gestation period in terms of creating a plan that’s borne out in reality. When women create this pregnancy dream, it’s often about something they’re creating in their personal or professional life – a labour of love they want to bring into the world.’
On the other hand, if your pregnancy dream is disturbing – think Rosemary’s Baby – then this might suggest that you’re working on something in your life that’s alien to you and is causing you anxiety. In this case, Ian advises thinking about ‘how you can put more of your character into that thing you’re working on, to make it more personal to you.’
Ian explains women in their twenties and thirties are more likely to have pregnancy dreams, not because they want babies, but because they’re busy building up their careers. ‘You’re thinking about how to get into senior positions at work, and your pregnancy dreams reflect the ideas and projects you’re creating in your professional life.’
Or you could be worried about your health
In Dr Orner’s experience, though, pregnancy dreams might reflect underlying anxiety about your health.
‘A dream about pregnancy is a dream about something being inside your body. So if a person has worries about their body, like they’re experiencing painful symptoms, or they’re worried about their health generally, then that might manifest as a dream about pregnancy.’
If this sounds like you, and you’re experiencing health issues, it’s a good idea to go and see your doctor.
If this dream is recurring, you should pay attention
Dreams are a really powerful way of getting information about our lives. As Ian explains, ‘A dream doesn’t happen to you. You create the dream.’
Dr Orner explains that recurring dreams are particularly important to heed. ‘When dreams repeat, that’s nature’s way of saying there’s something going on in your life that hasn’t been resolved. Recurrent dreams have a different dimension to normal dreams. You should consider what’s in the dream, and why it’s recurrent. The assumption is that, if it recurs, there’s a message or signal in your dream that you’re not taking into account.’
So, if you keep having the same dream, try and assess what might be causing it. Is there some anxiety in your life or a project you’re working on that’s unfulfilling?
How should I make sense of my pregnancy dream?
There’s no single explanation for a pregnancy dream, or any dream. What’s important is that you stop and consider how that dream might be reflecting something bigger that’s going on in your life.
Ian recommends keeping a dream diary, to help you remember your dreams and spot any patterns of recurrence. ‘The key thing with a dream is to put it into action. It’s not going to go away unless you take some action in your waking life.’
It might be a small thing that you need to engage with – a project at work that needs changing, or something major – but you need to think about why you’re struggling to move past that dream, and address any underlying issues.
If you do address these issues, and you’re still having Alien nightmares, I wouldn’t worry. You probably just need to stop watching so many horror films.
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