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Can Pregnant Women Watch Scary Movies?

Name two things that have a roller-coaster of emotions in common: pregnant women and scary movies!

Scary movies are sure to take you on an emotional roller coaster, so imagine watching one while your emotions are already peaked. While pregnant, most of us are at an all-time high according to the sensitivity meter.

What we’re trying to do is connect the way we watch television to our pregnant experience, and how we handle growing our babies – based on what we watch.

In other words, does watching horror, crime, or scary movies negatively or positively impact the pregnancy?

Does Watching Horror Films Affect Your Unborn Baby?

I guess the question here is whether scary movies cause you personally to become tense and stressed out. I’ve met a few women who love to watch scary movies and even laugh at the goriest scenes.

Most people who advise against a night of watching Chucky with a fetus in your womb are concerned about transferring the mother’s emotional stress to a child in the womb.

A lot of people agree with this notion, but is there any validity to these concerns about what pregnant women watch, transferring to their infants? And if it does, could it cause just emotional stress or are there physical detriments too?

It all comes down to whether the specific mother doing the watching is comfortable during the movie.

Does she feel squeamish, overly-stressed, or jumpy? All of which can cause hormonal shifts in her body. Even slight hormonal shifts can cause the body to produce loads of cortisol.

When a pregnant woman is in fight-or-flight mode, her fetus is being impacted by the chemicals and hormones transferring to the placenta.

Yes, your fetus will grow into the healthy adult they are on their way to regardless of how much stress you had during pregnancy. Yet premature labor and fetal distress, near the end of pregnancy, are two things completely worth avoiding.

Which Trimester Of Pregnancy Has The Least Negative Effects On Your Baby

pregnancy photos

The first trimester of pregnancy would be the best timeframe to play out a scary movie streak if it invokes emotions of you feeling quite jumpy or frightened. If you choose anytime at all to do so, that is. 

During the first three months of pregnancy, the baby has the most protection physically from your dramatic hormone shifts caused by a movie watching. 

You don’t have to feel obligated to opt-out in this trimester if you’re on the fence about it. In the later stages of pregnancy,  the fetus’s brain development reaches an all-time high for infants during the third trimester of pregnancy.

This is a time when scary movies might need to be reconsidered.

A Fetus’s Developing Senses

At 13 weeks, your baby’s brain will triple in size. Then around 24 weeks, your infant’s sensory organs are beginning to develop.

The kind of noises your fetus will be hearing, and how they might chemically react based on what their mother is sensing is a valid concern at this point.

After 24 weeks, it’s possible for them to hear loud noises outside of the womb, and better sense what mom is going through.

A pregnancy mother’s current state of her already peaked hormones. Thus, being rapidly shifted due to a horror movie could now potentially cause unnecessary stress on a baby in the womb.

Every day from 24 weeks onward babies become more sensitive to the outside world, yet stronger physically than ever before.

In a sense, it feels as though you’re shaping the next few weeks of your baby’s life. For instance, if you were to watch that dramatically scary movie before giving birth, your baby might be slightly less calm in their first week of life due to it.

Induce Positive Emotions When Possible

At any point in pregnancy, we can all agree that you should uplift yourself whenever possible. For you, if that means a scary movie makes your night better – go fo it!

Your baby isn’t likely to be as affected as women who get worked up over scary movies. On the other hand, if scary movies have never been your thing, then why bother pushing yourself to watch one.

If the situation presents to “spend time with others or satisfy a Halloween during your pregnancy” that involves having scary movies on, there are plenty of different ways to celebrate a holiday or have fun with others. 

Now you have a bit of information that backs-up the worries you have. And as a pregnant woman, you need to follow your instincts about what is right for your baby and your body. That’s your job.

Is Maternal Stress Linked To Pre-term Labor?

It’s so important to stay stress-free during pregnancy, due to the fact that stress itself can cause preterm labor if a mother is heavily stressed out. When a pregnant woman gets stressed or frightened, her body releases a powerful hormone called cortisol.

pregnant couple

In an interview with science writer, Annie Murphy Paul discusses the way high levels of cortisol during pregnancy can cause a growing baby to develop PTSD and ADHD later on in life more easily.

High levels of cortisol establish the connection in the baby for PTSD and ADHD to happen more easily by other causes in childhood to adulthood.

But, what about while the baby is actively in the womb, can a mother can go into preterm labor due to cortisol being spiked?

Cortisol is a powerful hormone. As mothers, we need to keep it under control as often as possible.

In “How The Nine Month’s Before Birth Shape The Rest Of Our Lives” by Annie, she goes in-depth about why pregnant mothers tend to have a hypersensitivity to violence, fear, and murder. It’s an evolutionary way to protect her baby from potential threats in the outside world.

It’s intuition to avoid scary things during pregnancy

It’s more intuitional “to protect one’s baby” to shy away from scary situations while pregnant.

Researchers at the University of Bristol concluded that our pregnant counterparts experience ‘hypersensitive emotional processing,’ causing them to release even more cortisol from stress-inducing sources like scary movies, than a non-pregnant female.

If pregnant women experience heightened stress hormones then they also excrete heightened happy hormones too, right?

If you go out for a scary movie or have a stressful time, counteract it with a dose of beneficial hormone invoking activities like a bath or nightly walk to relax.

I Watched Scary Movies Before I Was Pregnant But Now I’m Too Emotional

Being able to watch scary movies before pregnancy, just not during or after is something many new mothers live to speak of. For some mothers, it stays this way for years after giving birth, and others it passes soon after their babies age a bit.

pregnant woman

Regardless of when it passes down the road, while this heightened sensitivity lasts, it’s very real for anyone who is pregnant.

With hypersensitive emotional processing, a pregnant women’s daily life is more intense, and so is the overall reaction to watching movies that are meant to make people jump and be frightened. 

Researchers believe that pregnant mothers, and those who have just delivered, have a hypersensitive awareness to avoid threatening situations so that they are able to protect their baby in the years to come.

Like other mammals in the wild who rely on their senses to leave or be drawn to certain situations, human mothers need instincts to raise children too.

Studies found that pregnant women can better distinguish facial expressions that are threatening and signal danger far better than most people. This is an evolutionary way for mothers to keep their little ones safe.

If you find that it was a lot easier to sit down for a scary movie prior to being pregnant, you can thank yourself for newfound instincts that will help protect your young.

Listen to your instincts during this sensitive time in your life, keep your stress levels at bay, and aim to thoroughly enjoy every experience you have.


Watching Horror Movies during Pregnancy – Safe or Not?

TV’s influence on pregnancy, childbirth more powerful than many women admit – Science Daily

Too much crime shows? – babycenter

Why Are We Still So Paranoid About What Pregnant Women See? – Jezebel

I Couldn’t Watch Violent TV While Pregnant – Huffpost