The nine months of pregnancy can be a time of mixed emotions for men. It can be wonderful and exciting, but it can also be difficult and vague, especially for first time dads. Men may not be sure what they should be doing to help their partner. You could be worried about money as there are costs associated with pregnancy and having a baby. Remember that the birth of your baby will bring many rewards.
Men’s thoughts during pregnancy often include:
During a pregnancy it is common for the father to feel left out. Your partner’s attention will be on what is happening to her body and her needs such as visits to the midwife or doctor. You may not have realised how much you depend on your partner to make you feel cared for and now that her attention is focused on her growing baby, you may feel quite lonely. It is important to share your feelings with your partner and for some men this can be difficult.
One of the most important ways to support your partner is to stay involved and to find ways of being connected with the pregnancy. Going to antenatal appointments and parent education classes with your partner will give you helpful knowledge of the many changes happening to your partner and your growing baby. The more you know and understand, the more you will be able to comment on, ask questions and take part during pregnancy.
In early pregnancy your partner may be emotional and irritable about the smallest thing. This is because of a rapid change in her hormone levels. Certain smells and tastes may make her feel sick and she may feel very tired. During the second part of pregnancy your partner will get back her energy levels. During the last months she can become tired and irritable again.
Men too can get symptoms of pregnancy - the most common being sleeplessness, indigestion and feeling sick. These symptoms are probably caused by stress. During the pregnancy you should not smoke in front of your partner as research shows that passive smoking will harm your partner and baby. You should also encourage your partner not to smoke or drink alcohol and to eat well.
Being at the birth of your baby
It is generally assumed that all fathers will be present for the birth of their baby but for many men this is a very hard task and they feel under pressure to be there. You should have calm, relaxed discussions with your partner, which will help to stop any confusion building up, and make the pregnancy and birth a shared experience for you both.
You can keep your partner company during the early stages of labour by holding her hand, giving her sips of water and helping her to find comfortable positions. You can provide massage and touch, give her encouragement and help her to relax and concentrate on her breathing. You can also speak on her behalf so it is important that you know and understand her wishes for labour and birth.
Watching your baby coming into the world is an incredible experience. After the birth the midwife will put the baby on your partner’s tummy so that she can have direct skin to skin contact with your baby for at least 60 minutes after birth. Afterwards you will be encouraged to hold your baby and you may also have skin to skin contact. Some men are afraid they will hurt this tiny little creature but don’t worry; your baby is not as fragile as you think. Hold your baby close and don’t be afraid to feel its softness against your skin.
Many men feel exhausted after the birth and may feel very emotional. It is important that you can go home and rest once your partner is settled into the postnatal ward with your baby. Don’t feel like you have to contact everyone yourself to give them the good news. Organise yourself so that you tell the closest family first such as grandparents and they can then contact other people. You too need to build your energy levels to be prepared for taking home your partner and baby.
Going home after the birth
Take some time off work when mother and baby come home from hospital. Plan the time so that you can give your partner time to rest and you can get involved with caring for your baby. At home, you can help your partner by cleaning and preparing meals. Remember that your home does not need to be spotless but it helps to be organised. You can quickly learn to change nappies and to bathe your baby, which will be a huge support for your partner. Get family members involved at an early stage which will give you and your partner time together to enjoy these special moments as you develop your parenting skills and get to know your baby. Don’t be afraid to say no if too many visitors arrive, as they will quickly exhaust your partner.
Some mothers get the ‘baby blues’ or become depressed after the birth so you need to be aware of her moods. Try to be as supportive as possible during this time as your partner is probably facing the biggest challenge in her life so far. You too need support so make sure you talk to your partner and friends. Your baby will need night feeds for some time which will mean you will have broken sleep - just remember it will get easier over time.
Try to keep a sense of humour, remember you are a couple so try to make time for you two alone. As much as your baby needs you, your adult relationship is still important, so make time for adult conversation. Your physical relationship matters too. Sex is often the last thing on a new mother’s mind; you need to be considerate as it may take a number of weeks or months before your partner feels comfortable having sex. Your relationship with your partner is key to the family. When a couple are happy together, your child will be happy too. Get off to the right start by making sure you stay connected to each other, give time to each other and make hugging each other a priority.
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