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  • Writer's pictureMegan Furman, LPC, LCPC

I Don’t Feel Connected To My Baby During Pregnancy. Is Something Wrong With Me?

When a parent feels disconnected from their baby in utero, they often feel guilt and shame. Thoughts like, “Why don’t I love this baby more?”, “I should feel more connected!” and “What is wrong with me that I have little emotional attachment?” are common.

Many parents want to understand what it means if they lack a sense of connection. Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. There are lots of reasons and multiple factors that can contribute. Let’s explore them together:

Personality & Thinking Style: If you’re a concrete thinker, it can be difficult to connect with an idea of a person rather than an actual human. It’s great if you feel connected early on, but it may not happen until the baby is born or even well into infancy. Sometimes parents start to feel more connected to their baby once they get “evidence” of their existence such as an ultrasound photo or feeling kicks. First-time parents may have a hard time imagining in a concrete way what it will feel like to be a parent and experience that relationship. If you’ve never experienced seeing your child for the first time and being a parent to them, how can you expect yourself to fully comprehend how it’s going to be?

Experienced Parents: Others who are veteran parents may not feel connected due to a lack of novelty, or an understanding that the connection felt to a pregnancy is not nearly as strong as the connection felt to the baby you get to hold, feed, and snuggle. Maybe you’ve had the experience feeling disconnected during pregnancy, then bonded after birth and you don’t feel pressure to deeply connect to your baby in utero the way society tells us we should.  

Unexpected Circumstances: Some parents experience a lack of connection coming from a previous loss or other unanticipated circumstances. If you had a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, you may be unconsciously attempting to protect yourself from grief by not connecting until you feel more “certain” about your baby’s viability. Or if your pregnancy was unplanned, you’re experiencing gender disappointment (wanted a daughter but the sex of your baby is male), or you’re stressed about a job loss or family illness, these circumstances can also impact your ability to connect with a pregnancy.

Perinatal Depression: In addition to the factors described above, I would be remiss if I didn’t also address the possibility of feeling disconnected from pregnancy due to mental health concerns. We categorize the emotional distress a parent can experience during pregnancy and postpartum as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Postpartum depression may be the most well-known, but it’s worth noting that symptoms can (and often do) begin in pregnancy. Feeling a sense of disconnection from pregnancy can be a sign of perinatal depression. If this accompanies other symptoms of depression, such as sad mood, unexplained crying, feeling overwhelmed, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, and feeling unworthy or worthless, perinatal depression may be at play. However, if the lack of connection is the only thing you feel on this list, it’s likely not.

Perinatal Anxiety: Anxiety that existed prior to pregnancy, worsened during pregnancy, or developed for concrete (prior pregnancy loss) or invisible (hormonal changes) reasons is another consideration. The disconnection can be a way to attempt to control worry and avoid unwanted feelings like grief and sadness. As in, “Well, if I’m not connected to the pregnancy, I won’t be as impacted by those feelings if I lose the baby again.” Though it doesn’t work that way, our brain can try to convince us that it’s protecting us and give the illusion of a sense of control. Perinatal anxiety is sneaky in that way.

If mental health concerns are part of the equation for you, luckily there’s help out there. Support comes in many shapes and sizes. Organized support groups, therapy, and medication can provide benefit to a parent-to-be struggling with depression or anxiety.

While mood and anxiety concerns can be potential factors in feeling disconnected, know that for plenty of folks, they are not. Often parents begin to feel connected to their pregnancy later on or once their baby is born. This bonding increases as you “get to know each other,” and as your baby becomes more interactive.

It’s helpful to normalize that experience for yourself. Be encouraged that so many have felt what you’ve felt, and then fall helplessly in love with their baby within moments to months (yes, sometimes it takes a while) of meeting them outside of the womb.

If the sense of disconnection persists, remember that a connection is not always immediate, and that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Some parents feel a connection to and sense of responsibility for their baby once they’re born, but describe not feeling a true bond with or love for their child until months later.

Whatever the reasons for feeling disconnected from your baby in utero, there are plenty of things you can try that may help increase your sense of connection:

·       Talk or sing to your baby.

·       Respond to kicks with gentle belly-nudging.

·       Write letters to your baby.

·       Practice prenatal yoga.

·       Accept your feelings of disconnection (and be gentle towards yourself).

·       Write down what you’re grateful for in this pregnancy.

·       Journal or talk with your partner about what you’re excited or apprehensive about in parenthood.

Most of these can be practiced by moms and birthing parents as well as dads and non-birthing parents. You may have noticed that I use the general term parents throughout this post. The reason is that every type of parent can experience a lack of connection during pregnancy.

Almost all of the points above about personality and thinking style, stage of parenting, circumstances, and mental health that could contribute to not feeling bonded to baby apply to any and all parents. However, the experience of disconnection as a pregnant parent can, of course, differ from the experience of disconnection as a parent expecting but not physically carrying a baby.

Gestational carriers do have the constant reminders of being pregnant (which may or may not contribute to them feeling connected), but non-birthing parents may feel a sense of envy that they don’t get to have that experience and want to feel connected to their baby but struggle to. Many fathers describe a sense of separation from their baby until the baby enters the world. Again, this is common and normal. Even postpartum, if dads or non-birthing parents are feeling inadequate bonding compared to their partner, consider adding more bonding activities like skin-to-skin contact, feeding, diaper changing, and singing.

Whatever you feel towards your baby while you or your partner (or surrogate) are pregnant, try to have as little judgment as possible. It doesn’t usually mean anything is “wrong” if you don’t feel connected; for many parents this happens later on. However, if you notice other mental health symptoms, it may be worth getting help to address.

Hopefully this post will help normalize what you’re feeling and give you some ideas for increasing connection with your baby. Wishing you peace on your path to becoming a parent!

The content on this blog is for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional mental health or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are in a mental health crisis, please call 988 or the Maternal Mental Health Hotline at 1-833-852-6262.


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