It’s fair to say that women do most of the work when it comes to pregnancy. After all, your baby has set up camp in your partner’s uterus, so she is the one who will be peeing every twenty minutes, struggling to get comfy at night, and giving birth. Your lack of uterus puts you on the bench, but you can still be a team player when it comes to pregnancy. You are charged with the vital role of providing support, being a shoulder to cry on and, of course, getting the snacks.
Your partner may be doing the heavy lifting (or carrying) for the next nine months, but she’ll need a lot of support from her partner, too.
While pregnancy and giving birth is Mom’s job, there are a number of ways that you, as her partner, can share the load, too. And guess what? It’s a lot more fun that way. After all, it took two to start this journey!
Here are some roles for dads these days during pregnancy:
- Take over some of the household chores. As your partner’s bodies adapt to the rigors of pregnancy, some of the household chores get impossible for them. The fumes of cleaning solutions can be nauseating if not toxic, so cleaning toilets and tubs may need to fall to dad. Vacuuming and mopping can be really hard when mom’s body is already tired or the baby bump gets in the way. Offering to take this off our pregnant partner (especially before she has to ask) can help alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety.
- Prioritise Her. The relationship a pregnant woman has with her partner is very important. A large study in Scandinavia recently identified that the single biggest factor in antenatal anxiety was a woman’s relationship with her partner, and there’s also a big link between mood disorders antenatally and postnatally. Life can get busy sometimes. There are only so many hours in each day, and yet so much to be packed in. There are work demands, social activities, family to see, and a relationship to nurture. It can be pretty exhausting, and you may at times wonder whether you are neglecting certain areas of your life. Make sure that you are prioritising your relationship throughout the pregnancy. Make time for her, make the effort, and check in to find out how she’s doing.
- Create Some Memories. You will soon be a family of three, and though you will find that life becomes more wonderful and rich than ever before, it’s true to say that it will never be the same again. The lazy mornings in bed, the carefree nights out, and the impromptu weekends away will be scarce, at least for a few years. Now is the perfect time to create some special memories together. Take a trip away, spend a weekend lounging in bed, and head off into the countryside for walks. Do whatever you want, just make sure you do it together.
- Learn about the process with her. Many dads find themselves detaching from the pregnancy process, in part because they haven’t taken the time to learn about it. Go with your child’s mom to prenatal classes and doctor’s appointments. Read books or watch videos about the process of pregnancy. Learn about the labor and delivery process and talk with other fathers about their experiences. Getting more involved in becoming educated about the pregnancy process will help be a support to mom through her experience.
- Support her emotionally. Hormones you didn’t know existed will begin to manifest themselves in strange ways during pregnancy. Your partner may cry a lot or have moments of total exhilaration. Things that used to be simple and routine now are laden with emotions, both positive and negative. Recognize that these are all natural and to be expected, and that, for the most part, they will not last beyond labor and delivery. Patience, understanding, active listening and just holding her when she wants to be held are big things that will sustain her emotional needs during her pregnancy.
- Listen and Talk. Pregnancy and childbirth can be a lot to handle especially for first-timers. So make sure your partner knows she can vent to you about all those little (and big!) changes going on now, nerves about an upcoming procedure, anxiety about what kind of mom she’ll be, annoyance at her puffy feet. Even if you think her concerns are outsized or illogical, keep the thought to yourself. Don’t tell her to “stop worrying” or “chill out.” Instead, listen to her, offer to help her find information, go to doctor appointments with her, or take an afternoon off to have some fun together. And since you’re a team, don’t hold back on sharing your fears, too. Remember, it’s totally normal if the ride doesn’t feel quite as carefree as usual: Speak up, and things will go a lot more smoothly for both of you.
- Be There at all times possible. Tell Her She’s Beautiful, Run Her A Bath, Give Massages, Be Understanding. Many women find it difficult to cope with the changes to their body during pregnancy. She may be worried about stretch marks, concerned about weight gain, or just be feeling not much like her old self. Tell her when she looks great, compliment her on her bump, and make sure she knows just how much you love her. It’s important that you reaffirm her. Sometimes, pregnancy sucks. Give her a break. Pregnancy has its fair share of ups and downs, but you can make it much easier by cutting her a little slack.
Long gone are the days when fathers-to-be are left waiting in the wings to hear the announcement of their child’s birth by doctors and nurses. Instead, more men than ever are playing an active role in the birth of their child. They are keen to learn all they can, in order to help their partner during labour.
Here are some roles for dads these days during Labour:
- Before The Birth. Prior to your partner going into labour, it’s a good idea to discuss her birth preferences with her if you haven’t sat down and thought it through with her already. It’s important for you to know what she might like you to do for her in labour bearing in mind that her preferences may actually change when it actually happens! A massage while she is in labour might sound wonderful now, however during labour, she might not want to be touched at all. So it’s useful to keep this in mind. When your partner is in labour, you can reaffirm her requests with her then.
- Share the Coaching. Labor can be a long, hard haul for both of you. You may want to have a friend or family member there to assist. This person can help with the coaching and stay with your partner when you need to eat or take breaks. An extra person can provide emotional and physical support for both of you.
- Cheer From the Sidelines. Many couples choose this option. You’re there to hold your partner’s hand and rub her back. You may snap pictures or take videos of your baby’s birth. You may even cut the umbilical cord. But you’re happy to let others do the hands-on work. Jeffrey Kuller, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center, says that providing support is actually the most important thing dads can bring to the labor and delivery. “Dads don’t really need to be the coach,” Kuller says. “That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
- Wait Outside. In some cases, a woman doesn’t want her baby’s father there. If you haven’t been involved in the pregnancy or are estranged from her, there’s a good chance she won’t. Whatever the reason, if your presence in the room makes it stressful for her, it can make labor and delivery more difficult. Then it’s better for you to be elsewhere. For most dads, though, being with their partner is a good choice. In one study of how new fathers viewed the experience, 81% said it was rewarding and enjoyable. Regardless of how involved you choose to be, witnessing that final push that sends your child into the world can be an experience like no other.
- Look After Her. After the birth, your partner will need time to recover. She will be exhausted, sore and hormonal, and will be relying on you for support. Help with the baby, and do as many nappy changes as you can. If she’s breastfeeding, make sure that she feels supported, and seek help for her if she is struggling. Cook meals, help your partner get some sleep, and make sure she knows just how much you love her.
Pregnancy is challenging at best, but it brings with it a sense of awe and wonder if you work hard at making it a process where you can feel those things. Being supportive physically and emotionally, learning all you can about the process, covering the needed bases and focusing on preparation will help keep your relationship strong and help you have a sweeter experience together as you anticipate expanding your family circle.
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