- Dreams can have a wide range of meanings, and pregnancy dreams are no exception.
- Pregnancy dreams are common among people of any gender, and they don't always mean you're pregnant.
- A dream about being pregnant can relate to stress, anxiety, or even openness to new opportunities.
Recently dreamed about being pregnant and found yourself worried about what it could mean? If so, you're not alone.
Experts have debated whether dreams have meaning for more than a century since the famed psychologist Sigmund Freud published "The Interpretation of Dreams" in 1899.
According to Freud, dreams can offer insights into the subconscious mind. Recent popular theories also suggest that dreams may help you process your waking concerns.
"Some dreams can give a glimpse into a future event. That said, some dreams are just random 'offloads' of an overworked or stressed mind," says Carla Manley, a clinical psychologist in private practice.
So, while dreaming about pregnancy doesn't necessarily mean you're pregnant, your body might know something your brain hasn't recognized yet.
Curious about what your dream about being pregnant might be trying to tell you? Learn more about why dreams happen below, plus some of the most common meanings of pregnancy-related dreams.
Why do people dream?
From a biological perspective, you can blame the REM (rapid eye movement) sleep phase. Your brainwaves during this phase are almost as active as when you're wide awake, and this is when your most vivid dreams occur.
One 2017 study says dreaming is necessary for your health, noting that loss of time spent in the REM phase and less dreaming might even increase your chances of experiencing illness and depression.
While experts still don't know for certain why people dream and what those dreams might mean, they have come up with several theories:
- Leftover thoughts. The continuity hypothesis suggests that your thoughts, feelings, and fantasies from your day simply carry over into your sleep.
- Processing emotions. According to neuroimaging research, the limbic system (the part of the brain that controls behaviors and emotions) is active when you dream. This suggests dreaming helps with processing and regulating emotions.
- Forming memories. Your brain may replay waking events as an important step in storing them for future access.
- Free association. Freud believed all dreams have meaning, regardless of how unusual their content seems. He theorized that dreams often reflect past or repressed wishes that go unfulfilled in real life.
While there's no one-size-fits-all explanation for your dreams, experts have a few ideas on why you might be dreaming about pregnancy, in particular.
1. You could be pregnant
Has pregnancy been on your mind lately? Are you trying for a baby? If so, your pregnancy dream might happen as a sign from your subconscious that you're about to become a parent.
Vivid dreams, more frequent dreams, and a greater ability to remember dreams are all common during pregnancy. This happens because your hormones are shifting, which can have a major impact on your emotions.
One 2018 study involving 143 pregnant women and 125 nonpregnant women found that those who were pregnant experienced greater anxiety in their dreams than those who were not. This study's results also found that pregnant women were four times more likely to dream about being pregnant than their nonpregnant counterparts.
That said, pregnancy dreams are surprisingly common, Manley says, and not limited to one gender. Many people say they sensed their own pregnancy, or that of a loved one, because of a recent dream.
In short, a pregnancy dream isn't necessarily a psychic dream.
2. You have some stress or anxiety around getting pregnant
Uncertainty around abortion access could lead to some stress and worry about getting pregnant. This could be especially true if you don't want to be pregnant – at least, not anytime soon.
The continuity hypothesis would suggest your mind hasn't let go of those anxious thoughts from your waking hours. Experts agree that fear-based dreams focused on pregnancy can reflect your anxiety of what might happen if you actually got pregnant.
"This can be your psyche's way of allowing you to notice and confront any pregnancy-related fears. For those who don't want to be pregnant and find themselves worried about changing abortion laws, your mind may be offloading these worries and intense fears into dreams while you sleep," Manley says.
Pregnancy-related anxiety can also apply even when you do want to become pregnant.
"If someone is trying to become a parent or is scared about new life changes that a pregnancy can bring, this dream may symbolize unconscious concern about an unborn child," says Dr. Nereida Gonzalez-Berrios, psychiatrist at The Pleasant Dream.
If pregnancy seems daunting and overwhelming, these feelings could easily show up in your dreams, Gonzalez-Berrios says.
3. You're facing unrelated stress or anxiety
If you haven't been thinking about pregnancy in your waking hours, a pregnancy dream could represent more generalized feelings of stress or anxiety. This is especially true if your pregnancy dream was stressful in nature and you've lately felt overwhelmed in daily life.
When stress plays a major role in your day-to-day existence – during a pandemic or time of civil unrest, for instance – your brain needs to process a lot of challenging emotions on a regular basis.
Manly says stress dreams often reflect something other than pregnancy itself. "Some dreams just represent an overworked mind. If an individual is stressed in some way, the psyche often offers messages in a way that will capture their attention," Manley says.
4. You're open to new opportunities
If your pregnancy dream involves more positive emotions, it might suggest now is the time to explore new opportunities.
"Someone who dreams of being pregnant may actually be expressing a sense of fertility or fruitfulness in an important area of life such as work, home life, self-care, hobbies, or creativity," Manley says.
Dreams focused on negative emotions like anxiety and fear are more common than dreams that are positive in nature, so you may want to take those positive dreams seriously.
Gonzalez-Berrios agrees that a positive dream about pregnancy could be your creative process taking shape in reality, encouraging you to nurture your innate talents and personal growth while working to accomplish goals.
"This dream could represent a plan, job role, developing a hobby, or another meaningful pursuit that you are trying to give a creative shape in your waking life," Gonzalez-Berrios says.
5. Pregnancy loss
"If someone has experienced a recent miscarriage, this is likely a wish-fulfillment dream," Gonzalez-Berrios says. This interpretation ties back into Freud's theory that some repressed wishes manifest in dreams, often without your conscious awareness.
"Real-life miscarriage is a time of sorrow, grief, and mental exhaustion. This dream symbolizes a hidden or repressed wish of becoming a mother," says Gonzalez-Berrios.
Freud uses the example of dreaming about the death of a loved one as a wish that is often repressed. He suggests that if you consistently try to avoid heavy or heartbroken thoughts during the day, they'll stay repressed and keep showing up in your dreams.
"If your psyche is still processing a miscarriage, your feelings around pregnancy, in general, may continue to show up in your dreams," Manley says.
6. A new version of yourself is being born
"Pregnancy dreams often mean that a new life or life purpose is taking shape for the dreamer," Manley says.
She says these types of dreams are especially common for people undergoing major life changes, like divorce or a recent job loss.
Moreover, Gonzalez-Berrios says this type of dream could symbolize a new beginning, particularly around something you're really happy about in real life.
So, is this metamorphosis exciting or terrifying? It's likely a combination of the two.
During REM sleep, your brain can't release the anxiety-triggering hormone noradrenaline. However, your key emotional and memory-related brain structures are still "awake." This means you can work through what's stressing you out in your dreams — without stress hormones getting in the way — and feel less anxious about it when you wake up.
"In one way, this dream symbolizes joy and ecstasy, and on the flip side, it reveals an unconscious fear of taking responsibilities in waking life. Some anxiety and uncertainty about a fresh beginning can also lead to these dreams," Gonzalez-Berrios says.
Dreaming about being pregnant often has nothing to do with actual pregnancy. Dreams can have a wide range of meanings, but they might not mean anything at all. It's up to you to decide.
Manley says dreams fall into two categories: significant and insignificant, or "offload" dreams, as she calls them.
"Dreams that are significant to us tend to be highly metaphorical. They invite us through symbolism to heal a piece of ourselves and learn something new about who we are, or who we want to be," Manley says.