Emotional Signs of Labor Approaching
During the third trimester, the discomforts of pregnancy can heighten – and so can a woman’s excitement levels. So, it’s not unusual for emotions to run especially high during this time. But, interestingly, there are some specific emotional signs that can often indicate that labor is approaching. The causality between being emotional because of labor and labor causing an emotional response can be confusing for many expectant mothers and hard to navigate.
First of all, if you are a first-time mom, you need to know what to expect before labor and when to seek medical attention. Many women experience early signs and symptoms of labor. The majority of pregnant women are aware of the physical symptoms that may indicate labor is near such as the bloody show, the loss of the mucus plug, backache, an increase in Braxton Hicks contractions, and the rupture of the amniotic sac (AKA water breaking). However, most are unaware of the specific emotional signs of labor.
Does Being Emotional Mean Labor is Near?
It is normal to feel emotional right before labor starts. According to Stanford Medicine, a pregnant woman’s body goes through hormonal changes two weeks before the early stages of labor. These hormones cause the uterus to relax and the baby’s head to move down toward the cervix. This shift in hormones causes pregnant women to become more emotional. They may cry easily and become moodier.
Therefore, being emotional could be one of the first signs of labor, but it does not guarantee that labor is near. Physical signs of labor approaching are stronger indicators that you may be days or even hours away from holding your precious child. But you know your own body and emotions best – if your emotions are feeling particularly out of whack, pay attention to that.
How Do You Feel a Few Days Before Labor?
According to the International Journal of Childbirth Education, many pregnant women feel different a few days before labor. As you get closer to your due date, your body prepares for birth. You may experience many physical symptoms like changes in vaginal discharge, lightening or lower back pain, and many emotional symptoms like mood swings and the nesting instinct.
Some women do not experience any symptoms, but the majority do. It is normal to feel uneasy, distressed, and extremely sensitive. The shift of hormones and the fear of childbirth is what often causes this emotional turmoil.
The 3 Emotional Signs of Labor
There are three main emotional signs of labor approaching. They include: nesting, mood swings, and feelings of extreme anxiety and worry. Let’s break them down.
1. Nesting Instinct
It is normal for you to feel sleepy and fatigued during the third trimester of pregnancy. The baby will be ‘high’ in terms of its position, which means that women often feel out of breath more easily, and for some, it can cause unbearable pressure on their pelvic area. However, if you suddenly feel energetic and have the urge to do housework, your body might be telling you that labor is near.
Feeling the nesting instinct is one of the primary emotional indicators that labor is about to start. Most pregnant women experience the nesting instinct, which is a natural impulse to tidy everything and prepare your home for the new baby. Some specific signs of the nesting instinct include waking up feeling very energetic and experiencing a sudden urge for cleaning everything in the house. If you do not experience these symptoms you should not worry. Some pregnant women experience no signs of labor before giving birth.
Interestingly, the tendency to organize and clean the house that pregnant women have in the final weeks of pregnancy may have a psychological basis, according to the Women’s Studies International Forum. When a new child is expected, humans and some animals develop the desire to take charge of everything. People typically fulfill this biological drive by making their living spaces and environment cleaner and more child-friendly.
Science Direct states that nesting instincts could also be caused by anxiety before the arrival of the baby. It is normal for women to become very anxious right before delivery. Some people react to anxiety by engaging in repetitive behaviors like cleaning and washing things, which could be seen as nesting during pregnancy.
2. Mood Swings
One of the first signs of labor approaching is mood swings. If you have been very moody and are having emotional breakdowns frequently, labor may be near. Mood swings are usually caused by changes in hormones.
In the same way that some women experience PMS which can typically involve intense heightening of emotions, similar hormones shift right before labor too and may cause similar mood swings. You might experience moments when you are very happy and excited, and moments when you feel depressed and do not understand why.
3. Extreme Anxiety and Worry
A pregnant woman’s body knows when labor is near. So, the anxiety you feel will increase as you get closer to your baby’s due date. You might be especially overwhelmed and worried if you are having your first baby. This extreme anxiety will cause pregnant women to become quieter or more talkative right before labor. It ultimately depends on their personalities and how they respond to anxiety. As we said, you know yourself best.
According to UT Southwestern Medical Center, about 15 to 22 percent of women have heightened anxiety before labor. You can never know what to expect during labor and what complications may arise. This and the shift in hormones cause this extreme anxiety. Fortunately, there are strategies and approaches you can adopt to overcome the anxiety that accompanies birth.
What Should I Do If I Experience Emotional Early Signs of Labor?
It is totally normal to feel the emotional signs of labor right before labor starts. However, anxiety and stress levels should be within normal levels. According to the National Library of Medicine, if stress and anxiety become severe during pregnancy, a pregnant woman is at risk of dystocia: a condition in which labor progresses slowly. A pregnant woman should avoid chronic stress and anxiety by making sure that she:
- Relaxes and rests when she is fatigued.
- Stays around family and friends.
- Keeps her mind busy, for example by thinking about baby names or by making sure she has everything she needs in her hospital bag.
- Reading positive birth stories.
- Has everything planned before going into labor.
- Knows the signs to look for that indicate she needs to go to the hospital. Ie, she should be read up on timing contractions, etc.
Knowing when you should go to the hospital during labor is very important. If you are experiencing emotional signs of labor, you should not go to the hospital yet. They may indicate labor is near, but you definitely have not entered the ‘active’ of physical labor yet.
According to the UK NHS, you should call your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room if:
- You have regular contractions that last for one minute and are felt every 5 minutes or less.
- You feel a gush of water (amniotic fluid).
- You can’t feel your baby moving anymore.
Your body undergoes many changes that help initiate labor. The shift in pregnancy hormones causes physical and emotional signs that can tell you whether or not you are a few days away from giving birth to your child. Being aware of these signs and symptoms and being able to put them into perspective by factoring in the knowledge that you know your body best will help you to be as prepared as possible for when labor starts.
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Halimeh is an experienced teacher who has worked in a variety of US classroom settings. She is highly experienced in curriculum development, educational technology, and creative writing.