written by Prof Patrick McNamara
Both men and women the world over can attest to the fact that dreams increase in frequency and intensity when you are expecting a baby. It is a time of great joy and great apprehension and fear. Will the pregnancy proceed without complication? Will our baby be healthy? How will the baby change our schedules, our finances, our lives? Am I ready and able to be a parent-to have this helpless little child depend on me?
Given the huge responsibilities associated with becoming a parent it is no wonder that we undergo an emotional roller coaster during the pregnancy. That emotional roller coaster is reflected in our dreams. Dreams of both men and women during a pregnancy are filled with fear, apprehension and worst case scenario “What ifs….”. Nightmares are frequently reported as well. That much is to be expected. But it is also true that dreams appear to help us to prepare for parenting.
Koukis (2009) analyzed dream content reports from 24 pregnant women and 24 expectant men and found that the dreams of both groups of expectant parents departed markedly from the age-matched gender norms. Unlike non-expectant men and women the expectant participants reported far higher numbers of family members in their dreams, reduced aggression and reduced male characters. The expectant men also evidenced a far higher “success percent” than the male norms.
What do these results mean for people working with their dreams during a pregnancy? It is a striking fact that the expectant father’s dreams actually reversed typical content patterns for male dreams. Most of the time men dream of interacting aggressively with other male characters. This pattern is reversed in the dreams of expectant fathers. They instead dream of friendly interactions with family characters. The typical dream of non-expectant females includes a mix of friendly and aggressive encounters with a range of familiar and unfamiliar male and female characters. This typical patterns is dramatically changed in the dreams of expectant mothers. Once again expectant mothers dream far more often of familiar characters-mostly family members.
Thus pregnancy dreams do not merely reflect the fears and apprehensions of expectant parents. Instead they appear to facilitate a shift into a family oriented emotional orientation. That shift very likely helps to ensure that the newborn comes into the world with parents who are far less aggressive than their non-parent peers and far more family oriented than their peers.
Koukis, M (2009). Pregnancy Dreams. In S. Krippner & D. J. Ellis (Eds.), Perchance to dream: The frontiers of dream psychology. New York: Nova Publishers Pps 167-180.