Cheating trauma can give mums-to-be an out of body experience and trigger deep grief

Cheating trauma can give mums-to-be an out of body experience and trigger deep grief

Discovering an affair is undoubtedly heartbreaking. But if you're pregnant when you find out about your partner's betrayal – whether it's a physical or emotional affair or even flirty messages – it can add a whole extra layer of upset and stress.

Earlier this week, model Sumner Stroh alleged that she had embarked on a year-long affair with Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine and she shared some of their flirtatious text exchanges. Adam insists "I didn't have an affair" but admits he "crossed the line" with his "flirtatious manner".

This bombshell news came shortly after it was revealed that Adam and wife Behati Prinsloo were expecting their third child.

Since Sumner shared her viral TikTok video, three more women have now accused him of sending them flirty texts.

Meanwhile, Khloe Kardashian's former partner Tristan Thompson publicly cheated on her during her pregnancy with daughter True. She forgave him, but he fathered another child while the pair were expecting their second via surrogacy. Khloe has recently opened up about the 'difficult time'.

"When I had True I found out 48 hours before she was born that Tristan was cheating on me, and then I went into labour weeks early because I was so stressed out," she explained on an episode of her family's reality show Kardashians.

Dr Caroline Elphick from Core Clinics, leading Psychologist Dr Alison McClymont and Emotional Trauma Expert Antonia Harman explains why dealing with difficult news while pregnant can have an averse affect on mums-to-be, including triggering a "trauma response" and messing with your hormones…

What happens in the brain when an affair is discovered?

"The discovery of an affair induces a trauma response in the brain – I call it a “psychological car crash”. It's extremely common for the sufferer to go into shock and for the accompanying adrenaline rush to trigger a sense of numbness or even an “out of body experience”. A similar response may be experienced by car crash victims," explains Dr McClymont.

How does the "trauma response" work?

"As the adrenaline settles, you start to take in what's actually happening. At this point, emotions such as pain, anguish and anger may flood the body and you may have a desire to scream, run, or lash out – this is the body's attempt to deal with the adrenaline spike it has just experienced. Anger can eventually give way to deep sadness and grief. From then on it can be hard to look back at happier times without replaying the tragedy. This is a very common trauma response, and depending on the intensity of the trauma it may never pass unless the sufferer gets sufficient help and counselling."

Is the "trauma response" worse when you're pregnant then?

"When an affair is discovered during a pregnancy, the loss of promise and shared dreams can seem even greater. And the 'timeline of trauma' seems even more stabbing. At a time when you were thinking about the new life you're carrying, your partner was with another – this thought alone can be simply insurmountable for some women. They may choose to never reconnect with their partner. For some the vulnerability of being pregnant means they choose to stay, alongside their anger and disgust. Unless these feelings – are worked through as a couple, contempt can lay the foundation for later marital affairs or eventual separation."


Does stress feel worse when pregnant?

"Pregnancy is a high-stress state, both physically and emotionally, and often a time of high anxiety," explains Dr Elphick. "Pregnant women tend to worry about all kinds of things from the health of their baby to their labour and the future. When a pregnant woman experiences stressful life events – like a partner cheating on her – her bodily systems and coping mechanisms can become even more overloaded.

"Pregnant women go through rapid and massive changes in such a short space of time, so they often have less 'bandwidth' to cope with additional stressful events. Women also tend to be more sensitive and tuned into their bodies and emotions during pregnancy which means when something stressful happens, they're likely to notice and be affected by it far more."

How does the stress affect the body, physically?

"Significant stress during pregnancy makes all of the 'normal' symptoms of pregnancy feel worse – from morning sickness, or aches and pains, to fatigue and mood swings. In extreme cases, stress can cause high blood pressure and surging stress hormones, which can be associated with premature labour or lower-birth weight babies."

Dr Elphick adds, "Stress hormones can play havoc with pregnancy-related hormonal changes, too.

"Hormones estrogen and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) play vital roles in developing the baby and preparing women's bodies for labour – these can be affected by stress hormones like cortisol. This hormone cocktail can make it harder for pregnant women to cope with additional stresses and might also affect the balance of vital pregnancy hormones. When a pregnant woman is experiencing stress, this can also directly affect her developing baby because many hormones cross the placenta."

What should I do if I'm pregnant and my partner cheats on me?

"Devastating news turns your whole world upside down," says Antonia. "Your first reaction might be to end the relationship but take some time to calm down and figure out if that's what you truly want. Spend some days apart to work out your next move.

"To reduce stress, choose the appropriate friends to confide in, and avoid the ones that get you riled up. Don't make any knee-jerk decisions. Ground yourself by getting into nature and if it's safe for you to do so, carry on doing gentle exercise to release pent-up energy."

Dr Elphick, concludes: "If you're experiencing high stress during pregnancy, it's important that you speak to your healthcare professionals so that they can support you. Some of the negative effects can be reduced through talking therapies, relaxation techniques, and treatments like pregnancy massage."

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