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For dads and partners

If you're the partner of a pregnant woman, the closer the two of you are the more you'll be able to share the experience of pregnancy and birth.

In the early weeks (up to around 14 weeks of pregnancy) pregnant women can feel very tired and sick. Certain smells and tastes might make your partner feel nauseous, and she might only want to sleep. She might be irritable about things that seem minor to you. After this, many pregnant women find that much of their energy returns, and she may not want to be given special treatment any more.

Towards the end of pregnancy (around 27-40 weeks) the baby can feel very heavy. The tiredness and irritability of the early weeks often returns, and your partner may start to feel frightened about the birth. If she's on maternity leave from work, she might feel lonely without the company of her colleagues.

If your partner is anxious, encourage her to talk about it. Many women are more used to listening than being listened to, so it may take a while before she opens up. Be patient. If you can learn to support each other now, your relationship will be stronger when the baby arrives.

Practical support

Now is the time to start sharing the housework, if you don't already do so. Let your partner know that she's not alone. Start by browsing through this site with her so that you're both well informed. The basic health advice is just as important for you as it is for her:

  • eating well is much easier if you're doing it together – start picking up healthy food habits you'll want to pass on to your child
  • cigarette smoke is dangerous for babies, so if you're a smoker, get advice on how to stop smoking – if you continue to smoke, don't smoke near your partner, don't offer her cigarettes, and don't leave your cigarettes lying around
  • go with your partner to the doctor if she's worried, or be sure to talk it through when she gets home
  • be there if she has a scan and see your baby on the screen – if she needs to have extra tests, your support is especially important

When your partner is offered blood tests in early pregnancy, you may be asked to have blood tests as well. This is to check whether your baby is at risk of having an inherited or genetic condition, such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia or cystic fibrosis. You'll also be asked about your family history and origin, because certain inherited conditions are more common depending on family history.

Find out about antenatal classes for couples, or partners' evenings. The more you know about labour, the more you'll be able to help.

Most people stay with their partner during labour, but it's important that you're both happy about this. Find out what happens in labour and what's involved in being her birth partner. If you prefer not to be present, talk to your partner and listen to how she feels. You may be able to think of a friend or relative who could accompany her instead.

Talk about what you both expect in labour, and talk about the birth plan. Fill it in together so that you know what she wants and how you can help her achieve it. Support her if she changes her mind during labour. Be flexible – the health of your partner and the baby is the most important thing, so birth plans sometimes have to change.

Your feelings

Just because the woman is the one carrying the baby doesn't mean that pregnancy has no impact on you, her partner. Whether the pregnancy has been planned for months or years, or is unexpected, you'll probably feel a range of emotions. A baby means new responsibilities that you may not feel ready for, whatever your age.

You and the mum-to-be may have mixed feelings about the pregnancy. It's normal for both of you to feel like this. The first pregnancy is a very important event. It will change your life and change can be frightening, even if it's something you've been looking forward to.

Money problems may be a worry. You may face the loss of an income for a while, extra expenses for the baby and, if the mother returns to work, the cost of childcare. You may be worrying that your home isn't right or that you'll feel obliged to stay in a job you don't like. It might help to look at what benefits you're entitled to and start planning ahead.

It's also natural to feel left out. The pregnant woman's attention will be on what's happening inside her, and you may not have realised how much you relied on her to make you feel cared for.

Sex in pregnancy

Your loneliness may be increased if she doesn't want to make love, which can happen in pregnancy. It varies from woman to woman. There's usually no medical reason to avoid sex, but keep in mind:

  • her breasts may be very tender in the early weeks
  • don't have sex if there's any bleeding or pain
  • make sure she is comfortable – you may need to try out a few different positions as the pregnancy progresses

If you're not having sex, try to find other ways of being close, but do talk about it.

Some partners find it difficult to make love during pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable about your partner's changing shape talk about it but be sensitive to how your partner might feel. She may well feel uneasy about her changing body and may be hurt if she thinks that you don't like her appearance. Confide in friends who are already parents who will know what you're going through.

Be prepared for the birth

This checklist for parents-to-be may be useful for the final weeks: 

  • make sure you can be contacted at all times
  • decide how you'll get to the hospital (if you have arranged a hospital birth)
  • if you're using your own car, make sure it works and has petrol, and do a trial run to see how long it takes to get from your house to the hospital
  • remember to pack a bag for yourself, including snacks, a camera, and your phone or change for the telephone

 

Information syndicated from NHS Choices

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