A Partner's Guide to Pregnancy

            As a partner, it may sometimes feel like you are only spectating your partner’s pregnancy from the sidelines. However, a partner’s involvement during pregnancy facilitates the bond you will share with the baby, plus it builds the foundation for your new or expanding family. Making a point to show you are present during these nine months will solidify your involvement in the child’s life during the many upcoming years together. The next nine months will be trying, and your pregnant partner will want to know that you are there to love and support her. So, although the mother-to-be may be constantly reminding you of all she is going through for this child, do not feel left out—get involved! With these tips, you will soon be saying, “We’re Pregnant!” 

 

Appropriately Responding to the Pregnancy News

This is where it all begins. When your partner is getting ready to tell you the news, she may be scared, nervous, excited, but most of all she is waiting on your initial reaction. If you were not planning on having a new addition to the family, do not respond in a negative way because it could be devastating for your partner; try to be excited about the news. If you and your partner had already discussed your desire to not have a child, then she will be especially nervous and it would be best if you do not fake overly positive emotions; instead, clearly express your love and support despite the pregnancy. She wants to be reassured that you will rise to the occasion and be a great parent despite the fact this pregnancy may be quite a surprise.

Inappropriate responses to the news include the following:

· Asking why she wasn’t using birth control

· Questioning the condom

· Saying you don’t need “this” right now

· Storming off

· Blaming her for the pregnancy

· Suggesting the child is not yours

Your initial reaction to the news that you will be having a baby will go a long way in the following nine months. This first conversation sets the tone for how you will be as a supportive partner.

 

Equip yourself with knowledge

There’s an endless amount of resources for expecting partners, ranging from an article on breast pumping or a book with thorough descriptions of the three trimesters of pregnancy. The more research you do, the more mentally prepared you will be when the baby comes, not to mention during the pregnancy whenever your partner has a question. Knowing tips for a healthy and stress-free pregnancy will show your partner know much you care about her and your baby. 

Some general pregnancy information that you should know will include the developmental stages of pregnancy, the best prenatal vitamins to take, and the actual process of childbirth, at least as a start! Some great books to check out are listed below:

· Be Prepared by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden

· Dad’s Guide to Pregnancy For Dummies by Matthew M. F. Miller and Sharon Perkins

· The New Dad's Survival Guide: Man-to-Man Advice for First-Time Fathers by Scott Mactavish

· Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad!: How to Get (Both of You) Through the Next 9 Months by John Pfeiffer

 

Attend all prenatal appointments with your partner

            Not only does accompanying her show that you will be a caring and supportive partner, but this will also provide you with the most important information about the pregnancy. Checkups let you know what development is going on at that time and could help you prepare in ways that will allow you to help your partner. Take note of what the doctor says because your memory could serve to help your partner—it is not always easy to remember all the foods to avoid or what kind of exercises to stay away from. If you have a strict work schedule that makes it difficult to attend every prenatal appointment, aim to attend at least one appointment in the first trimester, one in the second trimester, and then continually more as your partner gets closer to her due date. Do your best to attend these crucial doctors’ appointments; listening to your child’s heart beat or seeing your child’s hands and feet on a sonogram creates a closer bond with your growing baby.

 

Look out for her emotional well-being     

Your partner is not only going through the physical turmoil of growing a person inside of her, but her emotions and hormones are also undergoing constant changes. She may want to vent to you about her discomfort, how she feels about her growing body, whether or not she’ll be a good mom, if labor going to be scary, or how nervous she is about the possibility of a C-section. When these questions and issues come up, comfort her. Giving her comfort and a shoulder to lean on during difficult times is crucial. Try to be a good listener and look after her physical and mental health.

Studies have shown that emotions mothers experience during pregnancy alter the hormones that can affect the fetus, including stressful or anxious emotions.1 This is why it’s crucial for all of your pregnant partner’s worries and concerns to be discussed and accepted. Take time to compliment her, take her out for meals, or simply sit and listen to all her concerns with an open heart and mind; the smallest things can lift her spirits and create a better pregnancy experience. Imagine that your efforts are even making the baby happier. Hopefully everything is normal and telling her so will show that you took the time and effort to look after her well-being. If she is concerned with any strange symptoms, research them for her. 

Your partner may also go through some changes, not just physically but mentally. Pregnancy takes such a hormonal toll that she may start napping even though she’s never done that before or started hating a food she once loved.1 Giving support and understanding will show her that even though her mind may be exhausted and foggy, you still love the person she has become. 

 

Finding Balance Together

Early on in the pregnancy and continuing throughout the entire nine-month process, you and your partner should routinely check in with one another. Communication is an essential aspect of any healthy relationship, especially during pregnancy. As previously mentioned, you may both change in different ways during the pregnancy, and it’s important to make sure that growth happens together. If your partner starts to lose their sex drive—which is a totally normal symptom of pregnancy—a conversation should be had. If you find that new issues emerge such as bickering, pushy parents, a skipped prenatal appointment, just talk about it. You and your partner are a team, and it takes serious commitment to work through these nine months together. This is why it’s crucial to find a balance of the new normal for both of you, because your pre-pregnancy perception of “normal” is going to alter significantly. 

 

 

Form a Bond with Your Baby

Your pregnant partner will have nine months to emotionally and physically bond with the person growing inside of her all day long, but she’ll also want you to form a bond with your baby before it’s born. Make time as often as you can to sit with your partner, be present in how she is feeling, and ask if the baby kicked at all today. It may seem strange at first, but talking to your baby will provide a sense of attachment for all three of you. Pull up an article about where your child is in its developmental stage while you feel her stomach. Make an online baby shower registry or start planning the shower! Making the pregnancy planning easier and more fun by working together will bring you and your partner closer together, as well as feeling more connected with your baby.

 

Help Her Get Some Sleep

As your partner’s belly grows to accommodate your baby, sleeping will become increasingly difficult. When pregnant women sleep on their backs, pressure is put on their back, spine, and major blood vessels, leading to pain and decreased circulation.1 Here are some tips for helping your partner get the sleep she desperately needs:

· Buy a full body pillow, which will makes sleeping on your side more comfortable and supports spinal alignment

· Provide backrubs during the day, especially before bed

· Give her herbal tea to relax the mind and body

· Use heating pads help release lower back pain

· Have patience; if she is uncomfortable and unintentionally keeping you up, try to help her find a good sleeping position

 

Know the Stages

First Trimester: This is a very uncomfortable phase for your pregnant partner. New, unexpected hormones are flooding her body, and each woman reacts to them differently.4 Morning sickness, strange food cravings, fatigue, increased or decreased sexual desire, and a constant need to use the restroom are all normal and should be accounted for.

Second Trimester: This trimester is a little easier than the first, but fatigue may still be an exhausting experience for these few months. Her belly will be slowly growing, but not in a debilitating way. She will be experiencing a physical body change, which is hard on many women.4 Be there for her, and try to help her stay positive about these changes.

Third Trimester: Your partner’s stomach will be large at this point and exhausting to carry. After the 37-week mark, your baby will technically be at full-term and labor can begin at any point. Braxton Hicks contractions occur in some women, and these are small versions of real contractions.4 These are normal, but call your doctor when she begins to experience some of them just to be sure. Childbirth is the final part of this stage!

 

Help Her Through Morning Sickness

Morning sickness occurs in around 75% of women and is considered by most as the worst part of pregnancy.2 Morning sickness takes a toll on the body, with symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and vomiting. These symptoms occur from around 2-8 weeks after conception. Nausea and vomiting is likely caused by the increase in hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) and estrogen levels, but currently the exact reason is unknown by medical professionals.2 Although morning sickness is an unpleasant experience, it does not mean the pregnancy is abnormal or in need of medical help—some studies even claim that morning sickness is a good sign. To lend a hand, you can offer some of these remedies to your partner:

 

  • Vitamin B6 supplements = Studies have shown that vitamin B6 supplements can alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.2
  • Seasickness bracelets = Seasickness bracelets are elastic bands with plastic bumps that apply pressure to points on the wrist. Supposedly, this pressure can reduce the feelings of nausea.
  • Ginger ale = The carbonation of ginger ale or any other clear soda can help with nausea. Furthermore, ginger has been shown to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. Most popular brands of ginger ale do not have any real ginger in them; look for smaller, independent brands that still use real ingredients.
  • The BRAT diet = Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast—the BRAT diet consists of plain foods that are easy on the stomach but also do a great job of filling the stomach, which can stave off the feelings of nausea. Remember that an empty stomach is more likely to catch bouts of nausea. Have her eat some food from the BRAT diet before she even gets out of bed.
  • Ginger or peppermint tea = As with ginger, peppermint has been shown to help reduce the feelings of nausea associated with morning sickness.
  • Be wary of foods that trigger nausea = Some foods can be repulsive to your partner one day, and the next it may be the only thing that she craves. Be flexible and cater to her appetite. Try to accommodate her cravings.
  • Keep yourself clean = Pregnant women become hypersensitive to smells2. Even scents she once enjoyed can now start her stomach churning. So, brush your teeth and shower daily, also try to remove strong odors from the home such as candles and house cleaning products.

 

If Using a Surrogate…

Each of the points previously listed are still applicable when using a surrogate to carry your baby through the pregnancy, but it’s especially important to try and bond with your baby during these nine months. You and your partner may both feel distant from your child during this process, so it’s crucial to find a surrogate who is comfortable with the same level of togetherness as you desire.3 Attend their prenatal appointments, invite them to come shopping for all things baby-related, and talk to your baby, all as long as the woman carrying your child is comfortable with those activities. Your surrogate, partner, and yourself are most likely all worried about similar and different parts of the process, so discussing concerns and fears throughout will help you bond and find peace of mind about these questions.3

To Conclude, Trust Your Partnership

No woman is the same, and neither is every pregnancy. Your partner may experience debilitating morning sickness for months, while another doesn’t endure any symptoms at all. Keep in mind that although these tips are provided as a general guideline to keeping your partner happy for nine months, every pregnancy is unique, and listening to what your partner is feeling will be the most important part of the process. You may believe that a body pillow will help her restless sleeping, but she may disagree. Listen to her input and thoughts on the situation. Each day is a new challenge and a new normal but remaining a team should be a constant.  

Remember, you are not a mere bystander during the pregnancy. This pregnancy is the mark of a new chapter and can be the most meaningful time of your life. You may find that your partner becomes more dependent on you for emotional and physical support, not to mention your outside family will probably be incredibly excited. Trust your intuition during difficult situations and allow for paternal instincts to kick in. The more involved you become during the pregnancy, the more you will get out of being an expectant parent, and eventually a hands-on parent nine months later! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

1. Kumar, Pratap, and Navneet Magon. “Hormones in Pregnancy.” Nigerian Medical Journal: Journal of the Nigeria Medical Association, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2012.

2. Lee, Noel M., and Sumona Saha. “Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy.” Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2011.

3. Saxena, Pikee, et al. “Surrogacy: Ethical and Legal Issues.” Indian Journal of Community Medicine: Official Publication of Indian Association of Preventive & Social Medicine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2012.

4. Soma, Priya, et al. “Physiological Changes in Pregnancy.” Cardiovascular Journal of Africa, Clinics Cardive Publishing, 2016.

Last Updated 9 March 2018.

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