A lot has been written about women and pregnancy. We don’t need to search the literature, though, to realize the father’s role during pregnancy is also important.
Obviously, a man’s body is necessary for a pregnancy to occur. This doesn’t mean his role is merely to produce sperm to fertilize the egg. His role and involvement during his partner’s pregnancy are just as important.
The emotional and physical support a man gives his pregnant partner can make a huge difference in the development of a healthy pregnancy and healthy life for both the mother and the new baby.
Father’s involvement in pregnancy
We know each pregnancy experience is different. The people around a pregnant woman can help make her feel happy, surrounded by love, and as worry-free as possible, with their actions, words, and support.
The father’s involvement in his partner’s pregnancy will have consequences on her mental health and even in the new baby’s future life.
Many pregnant women who have supportive partners feel more confident and prepared for the arrival of the new baby. Their hormonal flow, so important for the baby’s development, is supported by a healthy lifestyle, where an actively involved expectant father supports the growing baby.
Women without partners can also have healthy pregnancies and feel loved and well supported. Babies without their fathers present can still develop in a healthy way and have robust mental health even if they never meet their father.
It’s undeniable, however, that for a pregnant woman in a relationship with her baby’s father, his positive involvement in the pregnancy will make the relationship between mother and baby stronger, better and healthier.
Let’s see how the father-to-be can be best involved in his partner’s pregnancy.
How to be a supportive partner during pregnancy
Whether it was a planned pregnancy or an unexpected surprise, the father’s involvement can start as soon as you know you’ll become new parent.
If you have other children it’s important you pay extra attention to their needs so their mother can dedicate more time to her pregnancy.
Expectant fathers can be supportive of their partners in many different ways.
The first trimester of pregnancy is when the most important changes in the woman’s body happen.
From the moment of conception, the woman’s body goes through many physical changes. All of them are geared towards the pregnancy going to a full term as healthily as possible. The changes are not physically visible during the first trimester, but it’s during this period the pregnant woman will experience the biggest hormonal changes.
Once implantation of the embryo has taken place, the woman’s hormones (mainly estrogen and progesterone) help to create a safe environment for her developing baby.
She will feel tired and sleepy and it’s quite likely her appetite will change. If she’s affected by pregnancy nausea and vomiting, she might experience a rough first trimester.
There aren’t a great deal expectant fathers can do to make their partner’s pregnancy symptoms go away, but they can always do things that make her feel better.
She needs to rest as much as possible during the first few weeks of pregnancy. For that purpose, her body sends her a very clear message: rest and sleep more.
So how can you help her sleep more?
Make sure you do all those chores that prevent her from lying down and going to sleep. Taking responsibility for the housework so she can rest is the one single best thing you can do for her in this trimester.
Morning sickness usually comes hand in hand with food aversions. Make sure you don’t prepare or eat those foods in her presence. Take special care with your mouth hygiene. Some smells she used to enjoy previously (especially strong ones, like beer or coffee) might cause her problems when she notices them on her partner’s breath.
Many dads find these easy tips very helpful to care for their partners while in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Have an open conversation about her needs during the pregnancy. A lot of women find it hard to open up about their needs or wishes. Make sure she understands having a happy, relaxed and pleasurable pregnancy is the best thing both parents can do for their little one while they wait until they meet at birth.
The second trimester is usually the easiest for most women as the uncomfortable pregnancy symptoms are left behind and the size of their growing bellies is still quite manageable.
Now she will be much more involved in making preparations for when the baby arrives. She’ll also be searching for information about different options regarding health care providers, childbirth classes, where to give birth, and pain relief options.
Although only the woman is pregnant and this experience is physically hers, becoming new parents is happening to both of you equally. Both of you need to be as well prepared as possible for your baby’s arrival.
There are many things about her birth choices that both of you should discuss, as you will be her best advocate while she’s in labor. Understanding the ‘why’ of her choices for pregnancy care and birth setting will definitely help you support her during pregnancy and birth.
Many dads-to-be wonder what’s the best they can do to support their partners during labor.
Most women really want their partners to know and understand what they want, and to speak up for them while they are focusing on giving birth.
You can read more about how to support your partner in Dads-To-Be: A Guide to Labor & How To Support Her.
If everything is going well, there won’t be many scheduled prenatal care visits in the second trimester. However, it’s quite likely the visits for the third trimester are already scheduled. If possible, try to make work arrangements in advance so you can both go to them.
Are you thinking about doing something romantic before the baby’s birth?
The second trimester is usually the best time for this, as your pregnant partner has more energy and feels pretty good.
This is the time in pregnancy when she’ll need more physical and emotional support. The baby’s birth is getting closer, and she might have fears and concerns now that she didn’t have before.
The postpartum period is a very intense and emotional time in a woman’s life. Be informed about the changes and responsibilities ahead. Take classes in baby care or breastfeeding, so you can support your partner or take on your share of the responsibilities.
She might also need help to do things she’d normally do for herself if she didn’t have a big belly in the way, such as putting her shoes on or giving her a pedicure.
You can read more in 15 Great Ways To Support Her During Pregnancy.
Although a large abdomen is absolutely normal during pregnancy, many women feel really unattractive; a ‘big belly’ might cause them problems with body image.
Make sure you reassure her with positive comments about her body. This will boost her confidence and will help bring her closer during this expectant time.
Make sure the birthing bag is ready and you have revised your birth plan so you’re as prepared as possible for birth and the postnatal period.
10 Top Tips For Driving Your Laboring Partner To The Hospital will come in handy, even if you’re planning a home birth.
What happens to the father during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a time of change, not only for the pregnant woman but also for the man who is becoming a new dad. Although a woman is almost always aware of the baby in her womb, the father doesn’t have that constant reminder.
The main focus, at this stage, is on the woman, but this doesn’t mean the father doesn’t need support and help to understand, prepare and adapt to this new stage in his life.
Many men don’t know how to support their partners. Others don’t know how to address their own needs. Sometimes they focus so much on the woman’s well being they forget how important it is for future dads to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.
It’s not unusual for men to lean into their relationship with their own mothers at this time; mothers are most likely to be able to help them learn parenting skills. This can be tricky, though, if there’s a difference between how the parents-to-be were raised, and in the family dynamics.
Does the father have a big role during pregnancy and after?
Men have an extraordinary role during pregnancy, childbirth and beyond. To provide support and protection for his new family is a very important role – often forgotten by society but extremely valuable to the proper development of the baby’s brain and emotional network.
For healthy emotional development, a baby needs to feel safe. That means being with a mother who has the time to meet all her baby’s needs. Protecting this space from outsiders is probably the best thing a father can do for his family.
This means making sure the mother is given the time and space to recover from pregnancy and birth and to meet her baby’s demands rather than anyone else’s.
You might like to read How Dads Can Help New Mothers After Baby’s Birth for more ideas.
Things a dad should know about pregnancy
Pregnancy is a normal stage in a woman’s life. A lot of hormonal changes happen during this period and sometimes even the pregnant woman cannot tell what’s exactly happening or what she’s feeling.
Being in a good disposition to listen and help is very important. Being able to adapt to the woman’s changing needs is a wonderful way to help her enjoy her pregnancy as healthy as possible.
At times, no one, not even the pregnant woman herself, knows how she is really feeling. That’s why it’s important to be ready to help her navigate these feelings, without trying to find a rational explanation for them.
Dads-to-be can even sign up for BellyBelly’s pregnancy week-by-week emails to keep up with what’s happening to their pregnant partner and baby.
Unsupportive father during pregnancy
Some men are very unsupportive during pregnancy. They might think that once they’ve got their partner pregnant any further involvement during the pregnancy is unnecessary.
Nothing is further from the truth. Women need a lot of support during their pregnancies, especially from the baby’s father.
Some fathers, because of their professional or personal circumstances, can’t actively support their partners due to their unavailability for long periods of time. Although these men might try their best to help their partners feel well supported, it is clear their absence seems more difficult during this time.
However, lack of support is very different from actively doing harm. Having a partner who is unsupportive or unavailable at times doesn’t mean the pregnancy will suffer any damage.
Any person close to the pregnant woman can also offer support, and if it can’t be the baby’s father, relatives and friends can certainly step in.
Many women experience their pregnancies without a father figure by their side and their pregnancies carry on as healthily and as full of love as the pregnancies of those with supportive fathers.
If your partner is unsupportive he might not even realize the changes expected from him. Talk with him and let him know what you’d like from him. It might be just the thing he needs to change his behavior.
If your partner wasn’t very supportive of you before the pregnancy, it’s not very likely he will change now you’re pregnant. Make sure he is aware of how this makes you feel, especially now.
Do fathers get emotional during pregnancy?
Getting emotional during pregnancy is not exclusive to future mothers.
Just like women, men can get emotional at different stages of their lives, and for many reasons.
One reason is the idea of becoming a father. It is a highly emotional stage in life and many men feel much more emotional when their partners are pregnant.
Recent research shows another reason is our hormonal status is unintentionally shared with those near us, and pregnancy is a time when emotions surface more easily. Therefore, in terms of the emotional effect pregnancy hormones have on those close to the pregnant woman, the father will usually be first in line.
If you feel particularly emotional during your partner’s pregnancy, try not to fight it. Take this opportunity as an invitation to explore your emotions from the most powerful and fulfilling hormones of all: our ‘love hormones, which are the main ones that flow during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.