Emotional Changes Close to Labor

Pregnancy | | Natasha Weiss
5 min read

Bringing a baby into this world involves a whole lot of work and changes. During pregnancy, your body stretches and grows to capacities you didn’t know it was capable of, you might have changes in your skin, nipples, feet, and basically every other part of you.

Your body isn’t the only thing that changes during pregnancy, your whole life and identity are about to change – even if you’ve been through this before. This anticipation can bring up a lot of emotions, especially as you approach labor. What sort of emotional changes are normal before giving birth – and how do you deal with them?

Hormonal Changes and Your Emotions

You experience a hormonal shift towards the end of pregnancy that helps your body to prepare for labor. As labor approaches, estrogen levels begin to increase to help activate the uterus. Oxytocin and prostaglandin levels also rise which are essential for facilitating labor and encouraging the cervix to dilate and soften. 

These hormones start to cause changes to your sleep patterns, uterus, cervix, and even encourage your baby to begin dropping lower down into your pelvis. They can also impact your emotions. Hormonal changes in early labor can cause mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and more.

Even if they’re partially because of hormones, whatever emotions you’re feeling are valid. You also may have a planned cesarian section and aren’t physiologically starting early labor but are still feeling the build-up of what’s to come. 

Normal Emotions at the End of Pregnancy

You’ve been pregnant a long time. In the almost year that you’ve been growing a baby, you’ve experienced a whole lot of changes. It may be tiring to go about your normal activities, or your bandwidth is getting smaller and smaller.

Some normal emotions that may come up toward the end of pregnancy are:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Excitement
  • Calmness
  • Tearful
  • Irritable 
  • Nervousness
  • Fatigue – although not an emotion it can intensify other ones

There are other emotional changes that people don’t often talk about, one of which is starting to isolate yourself a bit. This feeling of turning in towards yourself, or becoming more internal is one of your body’s ways of preparing you for labor and the new journey ahead. You might feel more reflective or more in tune with your internal world, or just want to spend more time with yourself or just your immediate family.

Another surprising feeling or sensation that can come over you is the desire to “nest”. Nesting involves preparing your home and space for your new family member. You may feel a strong urge to organize all your cabinets and pantries, to set up baby furniture, and to do those mini kitchen renovations you’ve been wanting to do.

You also may just generally be feeling over it and are ready to get this show on the road and this baby out. Feeling physically uncomfortable can exacerbate any emotions you’re feeling, which is entirely understandable (may we suggest a foot massage?).

Pregnancy Complications and Anxiety

Another very real reason you may be experiencing anxiety or fear is because of difficulties you’ve had in your pregnancy or prior ones. Birth is full of unknowns and can be scary, especially if you’re considered “high risk” or if you’ve experienced pregnancy loss in the past. 

You may have thoughts running through your mind, or feel fearful in your body. If these thoughts or feelings feel like they’re taking over, please reach out for support from healthcare professionals as well as your loved ones.

While you can’t predict the future, you can take steps to help ease stress and have you feeling as rested and prepared as possible. 

Your Birth, Your Journey

Whatever you’re feeling is ok. This is your pregnancy and your journey, and any emotions that come up are understandable. A lot of times they’re out of your control and are due to hormonal changes, or general discomfort you may feel towards the end of pregnancy. 

You’re allowed to feel however you need to feel. That being said, there are steps you can take to help support difficult or intense emotions toward the end of pregnancy:

  • Hire a doula
  • Sign up for childbirth education classes
  • Go to a therapist or counselor
  • Join a pregnancy support group
  • Rest and take time for yourself
  • Take care of your body with prenatal massages or gentle physical activity

If anxiety, depression, or other symptoms persist post-partum, you may want to consider seeing a mental health professional who can evaluate you for post-partum depression. Fatigue and some ups and downs are normal, but it’s important to watch for signs of more serious mental health changes.

Supporting a Partner in Late Pregnancy

Partners of pregnant people also experience emotional changes towards the end of pregnancy. You may be feeling excited, nervous, anxious, calm, or all or none of the above. 

It’s important to take care of yourself in this time and make sure you’re well rested (you won’t be for very long), and do what you can to try and stay balanced and grounded. It’s also your job to help support your partner as they go through these emotional changes in anticipation of labor.

Here are some ways to support your pregnant partner as they get close to labor:

  • Take initiative to cross things off their list they want to get done before the baby comes.
  • They may be more tired than usual, encourage them to rest if they want to.
  • Take time to check in with them daily about how they are feeling.

Whether you’re pregnant yourself or are supporting your partner, congratulations, you’ve got this. For some extra guidance and support, you can learn about what to pack in your birth bag, learn how to prepare for a home birth, and what your pain relief options are in labor.

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