Prepping Your Nest: Urge to nest instinctual for many pregnant women

By Jennifer Jensen

As you get closer and closer to the birth of your child, you may notice a sudden burst of energy and a strong need to clean and organize your home. Do not worry — you are not alone. A lot of women experience “nesting” during their pregnancy — an intense desire to get everything ready before the baby arrives. For many, this becomes strongest in the last trimester as they are preparing to welcome their little bundle of joy into the world.

Robyn Nelson, a Gainesville-area mother of three, knows this feeling all too well, having the desire to nest during each of her pregnancies, usually beginning around the eighth month. “I went from having not much energy to cleaning and organizing everything in sight,” said Nelson. “I would clean the walls, baseboards, organize the closets and cabinets, wash and organize all of the baby items, and I had bottles ready to go in case breastfeeding didn’t work out.”

She also made sure her pantry was stocked and her hospital bags were packed so she was ready to go if baby decided to come early. “I honestly believe that nesting is a biological instinct and it’s our bodies way of preparing,” she said.

She may be on to something. A 2013 study performed by researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, suggested that nesting is an adaptive behavior stemming from humans’ evolutionary past and a result of a mechanism to protect and prepare for a baby. The study was compiled into two separate studies: a large online study comparing pregnant and non-pregnant women and a longitudinal study tracking women throughout pregnancy and into the postpartum period.

“Nesting is not a frivolous activity,” said Marla Anderson, lead author of the study. “We have found that it peaks in the third trimester as the birth of the baby draws near and is an important task that probably serves the same purpose in women as it does in other animals.”

This purpose is a protective one, according to the study. There is a need to have control over the environment — both space preparation and social selectivity — as mothers prepare for childbirth.

Nelson said it was a feeling that came on strong and was not one she felt she could control. However, she enjoyed having all the extra energy. “I had all this energy that I could use to get things done when previously I had been sluggish and tired all the time,” she said.

Steffanie Crockett, a Gainesville-area mom who recently had a baby, remembers that instinctual need to prepare, an almost compulsive need to organize everything in her sight — including a room at her office.

“So much of pregnancy and childbirth is completely new, out of our control, and hard to fully prepare for,” she said. “We can, however, prepare our environment and feel some level of control through nesting.”

If you suddenly feel a strong urge to clean anything and everything, just remember not to overdo it. Pregnant women need to make sure they get enough rest in those last few weeks to prepare for baby’s arrival. Also, be sure to steer clear of those cleaning chemicals that can be harmful to you and baby, such as those containing bleach. And if you decide to reorganize every room in the house, just be sure to delegate the heavy lifting to someone else!