Pregnancy: A Father's Guide
It takes 2 people to make a baby...
There's a lot of information on pregnancy on the Internet. There's healthy living guides, tips on growing healthy baby, yoga positions, dietary tips, and a whole heap more. But from what I've found, most of the information you find on the internet about pregnancy is aimed at the woman carrying the baby! What about pregnancy tips for dads? What do we do?
This is a scenario I found myself in, right up to delivery of my kids and beyond. Me and my partner bought books, spoke to doctors and midwives, and scoured the Internet for useful tips and pointers that would help to raise a happy, healthy baby. But a great deal of the information for a dad's point of view, I simply discovered myself, partly through trial-and-error, partly through happening to being in the right place at the right time, and mainly being at the receiving end of my partner shouting at me every time she needed help getting up, putting her shoes on, or just wanted a cup of tea.
The aim of this article is to share with you expectant fathers some useful bits of information. The job of carrying and growing the baby may be your wife or partners job, but there's still plenty you can do to help out!
(Picture source: PublicDomainPictures)
(Picture source: PublicDomainPictures)
Pregnancy is spilt into 3 sections, called Trimesters. The First Trimester is from conception to around 12 weeks, the Second Trimester is from 13-27 weeks, and the Third Trimester is from 28 weeks to birth. Each Trimester will affect your partner is different ways.
FIRST TRIMESTER - The first trimester is where it all begins. A lot of growing occurs in your baby, they'll start off as a little dot, and grow to around 6cm long. That might not seem much, but your baby is growing all its features. By the end of the 12 weeks, baby will already have fingers and toes (and possibly fingernails too!) diaphragm, ears, and eyes too! All their major organs (including the brain) have formed and maturing, and they will even have a fully-fuctioning circulatory and digestive system!
Naturally, this will have a massive effect on your partner. There are many different hormones rushing around her body to help her and the baby develop, She'll potentially have morning sickness (which might occur all day long!), occasional moodswings, and she'll obviously be a lot more tired and agitated than normal. Pregnancy is no easy ride for her, and this first stage will really put you both to the test. It gets better, I promise!!
SECOND TRIMESTER - The hormones settle down a little now, making it slightly easier for your partner. She may start to show a little bump, and may even start to feel it move around the 20 week mark (for you it'll be a few weeks later, as baby's movements wont yet be strong enough to be felt through the skin) Baby's hearing will have developed too, giving you the opportunity to talk to the bump, getting baby used to your voice. This is often considered the stage that women start to 'glow'. No, they don't literally glow, but once all the trauma of morning sickness and tiredness, your partner may (hopefully!) find it a little easier, and that will have a positive influence on her mood.
THIRD TRIMESTER - Your partner may start to struggle again in this period. Baby is getting heavier, and milk may begin to develop in her breasts. This will give her back pains and make her tired from carrying the extra weight. As baby grows in her stomach, you partner will also feel her internal organs getting squished up where her lungs should be. Breathlessness and getting to go to the toilet a lot are common. As are 'Braxton Hicks' contractions. These are miniature 'practice' contractions that should only last around 25 seconds or so. They are often mistaken for real labour pains, but they're nothing to worry about!
Are you a parent?
Are you or your partner expecting a new baby?
How Dad Can Help
Of course, the pregnant mum is having a lot of changes to her body. This will leave her tired, maybe a little bit stressed and agitated, and occasionally in a little bit of pain (especially when backache sets in or baby starts kicking!)
But how can you do to help?
Dads often feel very left out when it comes to pregnancy. Mum is the one who will feel baby move first, she'll be talking to it a lot more, and mothers often say they bond with their baby before its even born. Poor old dad, however, only really experiences baby as a living thing at the ultrasound scans, and when the baby can be felt through mum's skin at 24-28 weeks.
Of course, there's still plenty of thing the father can do to help during the pregnancy. Read on to find out some great ways to make your partners life a little bit easier...
(Picture source: PublicDomainPictures.net)
Help Around The House
Seems trivial, but how many men out there can say they do their share of the housework? While your partner is relaxing of an evening, offer to cook or clean up. If you're a terrible cook, why not do the washing up after every meal? Or alternatively, pick up a takeaway every so often while she takes a bath or has a nap? Some guys might feel a little proud to clean or do housework, especially if they work full-time. But there's plenty of men that do. I'm a stay-at-home dad, so I do all the cooking, cleaning, and household chores!
Run a bath for your partner, or offer her a massage
As I've already established, pregnancy is an uncomfortable situation for the expectant mother. Anything that alleviates the pain or discomfort can be a blessing. Warm baths are fantastic for pregnant mums, especially if you've got quite a large bath. Make the water nice and warm, (for some reason, women love boiling hot baths! I've never understood it. Dipping one toe into my partners bathwater often leaves me with third-degree burns, but she loves them! Anyway...) maybe even some scented bubble bath or soaps, and give her a while to soak. Not only can it be relaxing, water can make your body feel slightly weightless, meaning that heavy baby bump will float a little in the water, relieving the pressure on her muscles and spine.
Also, body massages are fantastic too. They can relieve aching muscles and back pain, and it also gives you a chance to bond with your partner and baby more too. You don't need to apply a lot of pressure, sometimes slow movements with hardly any pressure can have a fantastic relaxing effect too, depending on what your partner prefers.
The Babyzone website mentions a few massage techniques, its worth researching before attempting anything too strenuous. Certain areas, such as the tops of the ankles, include pressure points that relate to the ovaries and womb, so its best to research first. Also its recommended not to give body massages during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
Recommended Bath and Massage Products
Here are some fantastic ranges of bath gels and massage oils specifically aimed at expectant mothers. When looking for products to use, always check that they are suitable for pregnancy. Most products are fine, but occasionally some may contain essential oils which are not recommended for pregnant mums
A Massage cream that nourishes and smooths the skin. Is great for dry skin that can occur during pregnancy, also helps to avoid or reduce stretch marks too.
A theraputic bath oil that contains vitamins and minerals, specially formulated for expectant mothers. Includes organically-grown herbs and aromatherapy oils such as Rosewood and Sandlewood.
Three different body lotions and oils, specifically formulated to leave pregnant mums' skin silky and smooth.
Containing ingredients to soothe aching muscles, with a strong aroma, perfect for a long soak at the end of a tiring day
Understanding Her Mood Swings
As previously mentioned, women during pregnancy have a LOT of hormones rushing through their bodies. The creation of a new, tiny human inside them requires a lot of energy on her part, and these hormones can often take their toll. No disrespect to women, but there are times when they are quite difficult to understand or get along with during pregnancy. She might be short tempered, a little ratty, some women can even be a bit ditzy and forgetful too. My partner often forgot things I'd told her earlier that day, and then get angry because she thought I hadn't told her anything!
And this is all completely normal.
The hardest part for us men, is that women are a very complicated breed anyway, let alone with hormones running around and making everything even more confusing. You may find her experience mood swings, she could go from happy to depressed to tearful at the drop of a hat, you may even find arguments beginning to form as her mood changes. However, through it all, she will need your help more than anything through the bad times as well as the good.
If she's feeling depressed, give her a hug or offer her a treat, like a bar of chocolate or a back rub. If she's angry or argumentative, stay calm and try to resolve the situation. Of course it all depends from person to person how she'll cope, but keep in mind that you're bringing a child into the world together, and you'll both be parents of it, through the good times and the bad, so try to maintain a good positive energy through the whole experience.
Offer To Be There For The Ultrasounds
The ultrasound scan is the first time the pair of you will able to see your developing baby. But it can be scary as well as happy, especially if its your first child. I remember getting ready for the ultrasound to see my first daughter, thinking "What if she isn't developing properly? What if there's a medical problem? What if there's nothing there and my partners just getting a bit fat?" (just joking about that last part). I also remember going to the ultrasound for the second pregnancy, to be told by the nurse that its twins!?!
If you think you're scared, think about how your partner must feel. So why not offer to be there for her? Book a day off work, offer to drive her there, to hold her hand, or to reassure her of any concerns she might have. Not only will you give her a real confidence boost, but you'll also get to experience the joy of seeing your baby for the first time. There's only one thing that is better than seeing your son or daughter on that ultrasound screen, and that's seeing your baby born. But we'll come to that later...
Offer To Be A Birth Partner
I did this for all of my kids, and it was one of the most fantastic experiences of my life.
A 'birth partner' is the person or persons (some hospitals allow 2 people) that accompanies pregnant mum to the labour ward or theatre. Their job is to offer reassurance to mum, mop her brow is she gets hot, try to keep her comfortable, and offer reassurance that everything is going great. You may be a little squeamish of blood, or worried that there's nothing you can do to help deliver the baby, but just by being there will give her confidence such a boost that sometimes that's all she needs. Giving birth is a scary situation, and from what I've been told, HURTS. A LOT. However if you're there for your partner, she'll feel safer and less anxious about the birth.
Other ways you can help as a birth partner:
- Time the contractions, make calls to the midwife and hospital to let them know that baby is getting ready to come.
- Offer to do the 'tea run'. Get her drinks or snacks should she need them, or chase up the nurses if they've offered to bring a drink but havn't turned up yet.
- Help her move around the bed, or room. To pick her up if she wants to walk around the room, and get her back on the bed if she needs to lie down.
- Offer lots of reassurance and verbal encouragement, especially during the birth
- If she needs something to squeeze or bite down on, that'll be your job too. The nearest pillow might suffice though. (I had fingernail marks in my hands for days after my first daughter's birth!
"The Birth Partner": A Guide to Childbirth
Take a look at this book, "The Birth Partner", if you want to help your partner with delivery, or even if you're just after more information. It's 416 pages full of useful information about how you can help with the birth, such as techniques, medical procedures, and a guide on how you can help for those first few days your baby is born.
Other Products For Expectant Dads
Here's some other items you might be interested in, available on Amazon
Are you a parent? Do you have any interesting stories to tell about your (or your partner's) pregnancies? Why not leave a comment?