You've surely had the "all of my teeth fell out" dream. And you've doubtlessly also racked up a "showing up naked to school" dream or nine in your day. But tell me, have you had the "look down and suddenly realize, oh my god, I'm majorly, massively pregnant" dream yet?
If so, you may have woken up confused, weirded out — or terrified that you have suddenly developed eerie psychic powers and thus have predicted your own impending pregnancy. But there's no need to panic; dreams about pregnancy are actually incredibly common, and not a sign that you're pregnant. Rather, pregnancy and birth are common dream symbols that often relate to our hopes, plans, and fears, regardless of the state of our uteruses.
Read on for dream analyst and author Lauri Loewenberg's tips for decoding pregnancy dreams (we're not gonna touch the whole "eerie psychic powers" thing with a 10-foot pole, though).
What Do Pregnancy Dreams Mean If You're Not Pregnant?
"Pregnancy in a dream can usually be connected to something in your waking life that is in the development phase," Loewenberg tells Bustle. Life changes like setting out to earn a degree, beginning a new career or relationship, or starting a big project can often trigger these dreams — "something that is currently growing and will eventually result in 'a new life' for you."
In fact, Loewenberg reports that she herself recently had a pregnancy dream — but that it symbolized her upcoming podcast, rather than an actual impending birth. "I am way done having kids. But I am planning on starting a podcast soon," she says. "A business colleague 'planted the seed' of the idea in my head and that idea has begun to 'gestate' as I have been thinking about the logistics of it: how long each episode should be, the equipment I need, should I have a co-host, etc." It makes sense that this all led to a pregnancy dream, because "I haven't given birth to it yet. I am just incubating it."
What Do Dreams About Giving Birth Mean If You're Not Pregnant?
In contrast, Loewenberg notes, dreams about giving birth are often tied to a big plan coming to fruition — like, say, when you complete an important project, or finally get your degree.
"A baby would symbolize the result of your work and progress in some area of your life," says Loewenberg. "The subconscious will show us these new elements in our life in the form of a baby because, like a baby, these new things require our continued attention, care and focus so that it — and we — can continue to grow and reach our potential."
What Do Pregnancy Dreams Mean If You Are Pregnant?
If you are actually, currently pregnant, it's normal to dream about pregnancy or impending birth — according to Psychology Today, one survey found that one-third of pregnant people's dreams while pregnant focused on pregnancy, birth, or childrearing.
Often, these dreams take the form of nightmares about something going wrong with the pregnancy or birth. This, according to Loewenberg, is totally normal, especially during a person's first pregnancy, or if you have had prior trouble conceiving. "Sometimes our dreams can serve as a pressure valve, allowing us to safely release the stress that has been bottled up while awake," she notes. So if you're dreaming about things going really, really wrong with your pregnancy, it's not a sign that anything is actually wrong — it is more likely a sign that you just have a normal case of nerves.
However, this isn't to say all dreams you have while pregnant are just cut-and-dry anxiety nightmares — some might have more complex symbolic meaning. "One of the most common pregnancy nightmares involves death: death of the self, death of the baby, death of a loved one, etc. This is really about the things in your life and the parts of your own self that are ending due to the dramatic change of becoming a mother," says Loewenberg. "Death in dreams is the old dying off so the new can emerge. These dreams allow us to let go of what is no longer viable in our lives."
What Do Dreams About Miscarriage Or Abortion Mean?
While dreams of pregnancy and giving birth are common, many people also have dreams of miscarrying or having an abortion. For pregnant people who have experienced a miscarriage or abortion in the past, Loewenberg says that dreaming about these events is often simply an expression of your fear of experiencing those events again, in your present circumstances.
For pregnant people who haven't experienced abortion or miscarriage, they can signify fear of losing the pregnancy; they might also "symbolize something else in your life that you need to end or have put a stop to while you are pregnant, such as drinking, vigorous exercise, clubbing, etc."
If you're not pregnant and dream of miscarriage or abortion, Loewenberg suggests that you look to your life, and "ask yourself what has ended in your life or needs to end that had only just begun."
Most importantly, remember that you shouldn't jump to any conclusions about what's going on in your body or your mind because of a pregnancy dream (or any other kind of dream). A nightmare that you're suddenly pregnant doesn't mean you've conceived, or that even though you've put getting pregnant on the back burner, your subconscious is demanding that you get knocked up ASAP. "Dreams are symbolic by nature," says Loewenberg. "So you should never look at your dreams literally, because you will totally miss the message."
This post was originally published on October 3, 2014. It was updated on June 25, 2019