Nesting isn’t a biological urge, says new research

The idea that pregnancy hormones cause women to enthusiastically clean and organise their house in preparation for the baby’s arrival is now claimed to be a myth. New research into nesting suggests that it’s a pressure from society, rather than from our bodies.

If you’re pregnant, or have been pregnant before, you’ll be fully aware of the discussions from family and friends, on social media, and parenting books that likens you to a cute mother bird feathering the nest, and that every little domestic chore you do is proof that you’re going to give birth imminently.

Nesting isn’t a biological urge, it’s a societal one

If you don’t feel the urge to scrub the floors on hands and knees, or redecorate the whole house, you’re perfectly normal. You can relax, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you because there is actually no scientific evidence of a housework hormone when you’re pregnant.
Dr Arianne Shahvisi, a Senior Lecturer in Medical Ethics & Humanities at Brighton & Sussex Medical School investigated the research on nesting, and found the claim that it’s a physiological process to be weak. She states that while it’s normal and rational for pregnant women to want to prepare the house for the new baby, it shouldn’t be explained away with instincts or biology. It’s not the behaviour coming into question, but rather the cause of it that needs to be brought to light.

The myth reinforces gender inequalities

Shahvisi suggests instead that it’s a myth created by a society in which housework is still heavily gendered. It’s the latest study to debunk the myths that women are biologically more predisposed to do more care work. The myth that women are better multitaskers has been busted. Then the claim that men can’t see mess was found to be false.

The nesting myth is yet another way society reinforces that women are expected to do the lion’s share of the domestic duties, even during late pregnancy. The societal pressure to have a clean, well-run house whilst being a good parent is mostly all on the woman.

Start the conversation with your family

If you’re a mother-to-be and you have a partner, start to discuss how the household responsibilities and care should be divided. If you are feeling the urge to nest, it’s normal and rational, but what isn’t rational is that the responsibility is all yours. If anything, you’re pregnant so the majority of the workload should be on your partner. Talk about it now, and ensure you feel that it’s fair. It shouldn’t be left to the woman who is allegedly ‘programmed to nest’. Eventually society, governments, and employers will finally catch up to the modern egalitarian family!

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