I was a moody mama when I was pregnant. Nary a day went by when I didn't want to unload on a random stranger or my husband. I was not great at being pregnant. In fact, I hated every minute of it, and I noticed that the more pregnant I got, the shorter my temper became. It felt like my emotions were the wick on the dynamite, ready to blow up at any minute. In the days before my son was born, I was more sensitive than ever. I even wondered if getting emotional is a sign of labor, or was I just completely over being pregnant?
Mood swings are a common symptom of pregnancy. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) noted that it's essentially just a fact of life of being pregnant. It's cliché for a reason. But do your emotions ramp up just before birth? Not exactly. "Getting emotional is not a sign of labor," Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, OB-GYN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center tells Romper. "However, the process of labor often involves a great deal of pain (from contractions) and anxiety (from anticipation of pain and fears regarding the delivery process), which is enough to make anyone emotional."
For me, my emotions went hand-in-hand with the nesting instinct. During each of my pregnancies, I had the need for absolute order as my due date approached. I wanted everything to be clean and tidy, all the baby's clothes to be folded and put away, and I wanted everything just where I thought it should be. If this didn't or couldn't happen, I noticed that I'd become particularly volatile. It got to the point where my husband — a man notorious for just leaving socks everywhere willy nilly — would actually have the laundry picked up before the bag was even full, just so I wouldn't explode.
The National Childbirth Trust of the UK noted that the hormones that bring about labor, specifically oxytocin, estrogen, and progesterone, are abundant in the body as it gears up to deliver, and those hormones — save oxytocin — are the very same hormones cited as the impetus for your flailing emotions throughout your pregnancy. (Also, you're growing a literal person, so maybe you're allowed to be emotional regardless of how your hormones work, right?) They wrote that these hormones are also likely to make women want to seek the places they perceive as safe, and control their environments in the days leading to labor so that their bodies don't start producing stress hormones, which can delay the process of labor.
But as Schaffir says, when you add in the anxiety and fear of childbirth with those hormones, it's the perfect cocktail. Unfortunately, the heightened emotions don't necessarily go away overnight after you have your baby, but at least the pesky fear of childbirth dissipates somewhat. Silver linings — take them where you can.
This post was originally published on Oct. 2, 2018. It was updated on Sep. 6, 2019. Additional reporting by Samantha Darby.