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Understanding the Urge to Clean While Pregnant

A recently published study revealed that the reason pregnant women have a peculiar urge to clean, organize and control their environment is related to a more primal instinct tracing back thousands of years. Researches say the behavior commonly characterized as “nesting,” and exemplified by frequent unusual bursts of energy, is not abnormal, but is more of a preparation technique used by mothers awaiting the arrival of their newborn.

So, what are some of the “nesting” behaviors common to pregnant women? According to the study:

  • Women may be more picky about the people they surround themselves with, preferring to spend time with those they trust the most and are the closest to.
  • Being in control of the environment is a primary factor in preparing for childbirth, including where the birth will occur and who will be present. A woman may spend a lot of time obsessing about the details of delivery day.
  • Excessive cleaning and a desire for “new” items may cause a woman to discard perfectly good sheets and towels and replace them with new ones, or even to replace doorknobs to eliminate the risk of germs.
  • Cleaning the kitchen cupboards and reorganizing everything by size within the drawers is common, as is sorting the baby's clothing repeatedly.

Experts assert that nesting instincts are not frivolous and tend to peak in the third trimester as the birth draws near. The urge to nest can also act as signal that the onset of labor is imminent, especially if it occurs within the 40th week of the pregnancy.

To date, minimal research has actually been done on the behaviors of nesting mothers and as a result, scientists are starting to dig deeper into the psychological phenomenon. One thing is certain, the behavior is not unique to human females; throughout the animal kingdom, females who are pregnant exhibit nesting behavior prior to giving birth. Whether instinctive, compulsive, or both, the behavior is directly connected to a mother’s innate desire to bond with and protect her newborn child. Making the home environment clean and safe is one of the many ways a pregnant woman can do just that.

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