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.
As your partner battles her way through morning sickness, fatigue and the job of relearning her center of gravity so as not to fall over, you can help out by:
#1: Help without being asked
Pregnancy takes its toll on her energy levels, and you may find that your partner is falling asleep as soon as she gets home from work. Simply put, she just doesn’t have as many hours in her day now that she’s pregnant – growing a baby is exhausting. There are lots of ways you can help her out, and the best place to start is around the home. Take on a few extra chores so that your partner can get some much-needed sleep without the house falling into disarray.
#2: New her, new you
Your partner has probably had to make a few lifestyle changes since finding out she was pregnant. She may have given up smoking, stopped drinking alcohol, switched to a healthier diet and started doing more regular exercise. Help her out by making these changes too. If you smoke, now is the perfect time to quit (read our helpful article here), and you will have the added benefit of providing a smoke-free home when your baby makes an appearance. Not just second-hand smoke, but third-hand smoke is now being identified as a risk factor for babies and children. Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink (consider becoming a ‘Pledge Dad’ via Pregnant Pause), join your partner on her healthy eating mission, and start going for long walks together.
#3: Get informed
Knowledge is power, and the best way to get clued up is to do your research. Read books, look online, and speak to your dad’s friends about pregnancy, birth and beyond. Find out what to expect, and get advice from the people you trust about how to be a great birth partner and father. BellyBelly has a range of helpful articles on books to read and everything you need to know about pregnancy, birth and parenting.
#4: Be there
The best way to support your partner during pregnancy is to be there – and not only be there but be emotionally present with her.
Go with her to as many antenatal checkups as you can, and make sure you are there for the ultrasound scans. Go with her to all of her antenatal classes, breastfeeding support classes, and anything else she decides to do to prepare for the birth of your baby. You will find that you get as much benefit from these classes as she does, and may even make some new friends see you through those first few months of sleepless nights.
Make time each week to sit and be present with your partner and your baby. Talk with your baby together. Feel your baby in her belly. Read a baby development book or website together to see what your baby has grown this week and share the wonder, joy, and excitement of that. It’s a great way for you to feel more connected to the pregnancy journey and a gateway to your partner seeing how you’re becoming a dad and a family man – she needs to know you’re there now and going to love this baby and her as a mum when you get there.
#5: Tell her she’s beautiful
Many women find it difficult to cope with the changes to their bodies 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.
#6: Learn to love the pillows
You may have noticed that as your partner’s bump grows, so too do the number of pillows in your bed. Your once roomy bed is now cripplingly small, and you may find yourself teetering on the edge most nights and you battle against a makeshift wall of hollow fiber comfort. It may seem personal, but it’s not. Your partner is likely to be suffering from aches and pains in places she didn’t even know existed, and the pillows are vital in allowing her to get some sleep. Yes, all 57 of them. If you really want to win her over, treat her to a maternity pillow.
#7: Run her a bath
It’s important that your partner gets some time each day to relax, and focus on herself and the pregnancy. If she’s suffering from aches and pains and is struggling to fall asleep at night, she may benefit from a soak in the tub at the end of the day. Invest in some sweet-smelling bubble bath, light some candles and run a bath for your partner so she can have some peace at the end of a long day. Do this often, daily if necessary. And while she’s in there, take some time to relax yourself, it’s important to make sure you are feeling cared for as well.
A nice warm bath can also help wash away all the stresses of the day, at a time when stress reduction is very important. Read our 10 tips to help her with stress during pregnancy.
#8: Give massages (lots!)
Whether it’s foot rubs, lower back rubs or all-over body massages she wants, now is the time to hone your skills. Use massage oil and treat your partner to a relaxing massage to ease her aching body as it adjusts to the pregnancy. Massage is a great skill to have, because not only will it put you firmly in the running for “Lover Of The Year”, it will also be a tool you can use during labor to help your partner between contractions (if she feels like it – some women don’t). And, as an added bonus, you might feel more confident about giving baby massage a try in the not-so-distant future.
#9: Be understanding
Sometimes, pregnancy sucks. She might be feeling too nauseous to eat the meal you’ve cooked, too tired to go to that party, or too desperate for the bathroom to stop crying on the motorway. As her hormones wreak havoc on her body and mind, you may find that she gets upset about inconsequential things. 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.
It may sometimes feel like all your partner does these days is talking about the pregnancy. Well, that’s probably because it’s happening in her body every minute of the day. Whereas the pregnancy may occasionally slip your mind, she is carting around a very real reminder with her at all times. She may be finding the pregnancy tough, feeling worried about the birth, or having a confidence crisis about her mother’s abilities – or maybe all three. Be a shoulder for her to cry on, listen to all of her concerns, and offer her the reassurance and support she really needs.
#11: Talk about it
Listening is great, but talking and sharing your own feelings and experiences is just as important. You will have a whole set of worries of your own and might be dealing with some conflicting emotions about the pregnancy and fatherhood. That’s ok, it’s normal, and it will help you both if you are honest about your feelings. You may find that she is worried about a lot of the same things and that you can support each other through any concerns.
#12: Prioritize 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 prioritizing your relationship throughout the pregnancy. Make time for her, make the effort, and check in to find out how she’s doing.
Find out more about preventing postnatal depression which is so valuable to know before your baby arrives.
#13: 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.
#14: Be the birth partner of her dreams
Talk to your partner about birth, and find out her wishes. Make sure she knows you will be her advocate in the delivery room. Support her birth choices, and do your own research so you can help her on the day. Plan your route to the hospital, and make sure you have a change to pay for parking. Pack snacks, make sure your camera is fully charged, and keep your phone with you at all times. Make sure she can always reach you, and that she knows you have this whole birth partner thing fully under control.
You might like to read our birth support guide for partners here.
#15: Look after her
After 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.