A pregnant woman's urge to clean, organise and get their life in order is a primal instinct going back thousands of years, according to a new study.
Researchers found the obsessive behaviour - known as 'nesting' and characterised by unusual bursts of energy - is not irrational, but a result of a mechanism to protect and prepare for the unborn baby.
Women also become more selective about the company they keep, preferring to just spend time with people they trust, reports the journal Evolution & Human Behaviour.
Having control over the environment is a key feature of preparing for childbirth, including decisions about where the birth will take place and who will be welcome.
Psychologist Doctor Marla Anderson, of McMaster University in Canada, said:
'Nesting is not a frivolous activity.
'We have found it peaks in the third trimester as the birth draws near and is an important task that probably serves the same purpose in women as it does in other animals.
'It ties us to our ancestral past. Providing a safe environment helps to promote bonding and attachment between both the mother and infant.'
Females of the animal kingdom are all equipped with this same need. Just as you see birds making their nests, mothers to be do exactly the same.
Women also become more selective about the company they keep, preferring to just spend time with people they trust, reports the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour
They may become a homebody and want to retreat into the comfort of home and familiar company, like a brooding hen.
The nesting urge can even be a sign of the onset of labour when it occurs close to 40 weeks of pregnancy.
Women have reported throwing away perfectly good sheets and towels because they felt the strong need to have 'brand new, clean' ones in their home.
They have also reported doing things like taking apart the knobs on kitchen cupboards, just so they could disinfect the screws attached.
Women have discussed taking on cleaning their entire house, armed with a toothbrush.
There seems to be no end to the lengths a nesting mother will go.
Cleaning the kitchen cupboards and organising everything by size to the point the silverware patterns match when stacked in the cutlery drawer, and sorting the baby's clothes over and over again, are other common activities.
Since little scientific research had been done previously on nesting behaviours, the scientists set out to explore the psychology behind the phenomenon.
They designed two separate studies, a large online one comparing pregnant and non pregnant women and another tracking participants throughout pregnancy and afterwards.
Non pregnant women, who acted as the control group, were compared at similar time intervals, using a questionnaire which was developed, in part, from interviews conducted with midwives.
'One of the apparent paradoxes of nesting is in the third trimester women tell us they are more tired while simultaneously showing an increase in activity,' said Professer Mel Rutherford.
'So the urge to nest is a very powerful motivating force.'
Allison Hutton Describes Her Nesting Experience:
I thought I would take a few minutes away from rearranging furniture, cleaning my ceiling fans, and scrubbing the walls, to share with you some of the "mystery" behind nesting.
The nesting instinct is common among most animals, which naturally feel an instinct to prepare the "nest" before birth of their young. For us humans, this usually entails vigorous cleaning, washing of baby clothing, rearranging of furniture, wallpapering, painting, and just about any other home improvement project that springs to mind.
I am now 32 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and I must say that the nesting instinct in much stronger this time around. With Hannah, we had just moved into a new house, and I was so busy unpacking that I didn't have time to "feather the nest." Basically, I readied the nursery and hoped for the best. This pregnancy has found me waking throughout the night, wondering what needs to be done, before our little man arrives. I decided we needed a new bed. A bigger bed. A king size bed. So, we went and bought one, with the knowledge that it would stay in the garage until this weekend, when my Dad arrives to help get it upstairs.
I knew that I couldn't move this gargantuan bed by myself, so I did the next best thing. I took apart the day bed in our computer room, moved it into the nursery, where I promptly rearranged all the furniture (to only move it all back to its' original position), and reassembled the brass demon. Not an easy job for a loner with a 19-month-old helper, but it is now a task that is "checked off" on my to-do list. Then, I thought maybe I should take the queen-sized mattresses off of their frame in our bedroom. Again, not an easy task. After all, I am fat, slow, and not maneuvering at my best. Mission accomplished. I also managed to take apart the headboard and frame, and move it to its new location in the computer room. By the time Saturday arrives, all that will need to be done is the actual moving of the king mattresses.
With my new career as a professional mover well on its way, I was disappointed at the nasty looks and lectures received from family and friends-especially my husband. Being scorned like a 2 year old was not my idea of praiseafter all, I saved people hours of work! Instead I was told to stay away from heavy objects, and to behave myself. Hmmm -I am not an invalid, I am pregnant. What these people fail to realize is that the urge to do these things is SO overwhelming. I didn't sit around the house in my jammies, eating bon-bons, wondering what it was that I could get into. I stayed awake at night, fighting off the urge to get up at 3am and begin rearranging. Believe me when I say, cleaning is NOT my favorite pastime. I could easily find other tasks, which are much less daunting, and far easier to accomplish. However, I have found that when I have the desperate need to "prepare" something, there are other alternatives besides cleaning.
For example, I cook. I like to cook anyway, but I have found that preparing "extra" and freezing it will be quite a help after the baby arrives. I have soups, lasagna, casseroles, and anything else that will fit, shoved into my freezer. This should prove to make life with a newborn, toddler and husband much easier in the early weeks.
Packing the bag for the hospital is another activity that is sure to take up some time, while accomplishing a very important task. I must admit that I have been putting this one off for 2 reasons. First, I have nothing to put in my bag. I am going to splurge on a new set of pajamas for my trip to the hospital, and I would like to pick up some aromatic toiletries as well. I highly recommend doing this, as the hospital soap will dry your skin so badly, you'll look like you have fish scales. Get a nice body wash, perhaps some lotions or gels, and pamper yourself as much as you can. I suggest making a trip to Bath and Body Works, and loading up on their little trial sized bottles of everything (the Plumeria scent is my favorite!). I am packing for this trip like I am going on a romantic getaway. You see, Hannah has my hands full, and I am so looking forward to two whole days and nights of being alone, rubbing lotion on feet that I haven't been able to reach for months, and watching reruns of Chips and Laverne and Shirley. After all, I am a simple girl.
You will find that the degree of nesting that is necessary will vary with each woman, and with each pregnancy. Just remember to take it easy, and listen to your body's cues. If you feel uncomfortable, take a break, put your feet up, and drink lots of water. Also remember that, when using cleansers, paint, or other items that have fumes, to keep your working area well ventilated, and take frequent breaks. Good luck!
Some Ahaadeeth to Ponder Over
"Love your beloved moderately, perhaps he becomes hated to you someday. And hate whom you hate moderately, perhaps he becomes your beloved someday."
[Reference : Jami` at-Tirmidhi 1997, Grade : Hasan (Darussalam)]
عَنْ جَابِرِ بْنِ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ـ صلى الله عليه وسلم ـ " أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَجْمِلُوا فِي الطَّلَبِ فَإِنَّ نَفْسًا لَنْ تَمُوتَ حَتَّى تَسْتَوْفِيَ رِزْقَهَا وَإِنْ أَبْطَأَ عَنْهَا فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَجْمِلُوا فِي الطَّلَبِ خُذُوا مَا حَلَّ وَدَعُوا مَا حَرُمَ " .
It was narrated from Jabir bin 'Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
"O people, fear Allah and be moderate in seeking a living, for no soul will die until it has received all its provision, even if it is slow in coming. So fear Allah and be moderate in seeking provision; take that which is permissible and leave that which is forbidden. "
It was narrated from Abu Humaid As-Sa'idi that the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said:
Be moderate in seeking worldly things, for everyone will be facilitated for which he was created."
[English reference : Vol. 3, Book 12, Hadith 2142 - Sunan Ibn Majah, Grade : Sahih (Darussalam)]
حَدَّثَنَا النُّفَيْلِيُّ، حَدَّثَنَا زُهَيْرٌ، حَدَّثَنَا قَابُوسُ بْنُ أَبِي ظَبْيَانَ، أَنَّ أَبَاهُ، حَدَّثَهُ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ عَبَّاسٍ، أَنَّ نَبِيَّ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ " إِنَّ الْهَدْىَ الصَّالِحَ وَالسَّمْتَ الصَّالِحَ وَالاِقْتِصَادَ جُزْءٌ مِنْ خَمْسَةٍ وَعِشْرِينَ جُزْءًا مِنَ النُّبُوَّةِ " .
Narrated Abdullah Ibn 'Abbas:
The Prophet (ﷺ) said: Good way, dignified good bearing and moderation are the twenty-fifth part of Prophecy.