Why is it important to support your partner during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is usually a time of excitement. But sometimes, pregnant women and their partners may feel like they're expecting a bundle of anxiety along with the joy. They have a long list of to-dos. They have to cope with the changes and unknowns that come with pregnancy and birth.
When both partners support each other, they strengthen their bond and their sense of teamwork.
A partner's support is especially important for the mom and baby during this busy time.
A woman who feels supported by her partner during and after pregnancy may feel happier and less stressed.
Lower stress in moms during pregnancy may help infants too. That's because higher levels of stress hormones in pregnant women can make the baby react more to stress after birth.1
What can a partner do during pregnancy?
If this is your first child, learn as much about pregnancy as you can. Read about what to expect during each trimester. For example, women may be very tired during the first and third trimesters. During the second trimester, they may have more energy.
Whether you're new to parenthood or have been through this before:
Go with her to doctor visits.
Help make decisions about prenatal tests, such as those for birth defects.
Go to childbirth classes.
You also can support your partner in other ways:
Encourage and reassure her.
Ask her what she needs from you.
Show affection. Hold hands and give hugs.
Help her make changes to her lifestyle. You may decide to give up alcohol and coffee—or cut back—since she can't drink alcohol and may cut back on caffeine. This can be a good time to make some lifestyle changes that you've been thinking about.
Try to eat healthy foods, which can help her eat well.
Encourage her to take breaks and naps. Hormones during pregnancy can change a woman's energy level and need for sleep.
Some women may want less sex. They may be tired and uncomfortable as they get bigger. They may feel self-conscious about how their body is changing. But other women may want more sex at certain times of their pregnancy. Talk to your partner about how she is feeling, and be open to changes in how you express intimacy.
Take walks together. It gives you exercise and time to talk.
Help with cleaning and cooking. This is especially important when your pregnant partner is most tired or if certain cooking smells make her feel sick to her stomach.
If you smoke, don't do it around her. Start a quit program if you can, or cut down on how much you smoke.
Back and foot massages can help ease stress and aches as the pregnancy goes on.
After the baby arrives
Help feed, change, and bathe your baby. You can bring the baby to your nursing partner or do bottle-feedings, depending on your choice for feeding the baby. It creates a bond with you and the baby and gives your partner time to sleep or take a walk.
If you have other children, you may want to handle more of their care in the early weeks and months after the baby arrives.
Give the new mom breaks so she can exercise, work, or do other activities.
How can a partner get support during pregnancy?
It's not only moms who need care and attention. You may feel like you're expected to do all the helping and giving. With all the attention on the mom and baby, you may feel ignored by family and friends. And you may worry about the safety of your partner and baby during childbirth. It's also common to feel nervous about your role during labor.
Try to support yourself too. Your partnership and family will be stronger if you both get breaks and help.
Talk a lot with your partner about how you're both feeling. Share what you need, just as she shares what she needs. For example, let her know if you want to go to all the doctor visits.
Talk about what role you want during labor and delivery. Most moms want their partners to be there, but some may not. And some partners may feel anxious and not want to be there. You can decide together what's best for both of you.
Ask questions during doctor visits. This helps make it clear to health professionals that you're involved in the process and want their attention too.
Reach out to other partners to share feelings, ideas, and tips. You might be able to meet other partners through childbirth classes. Or you can read Internet blogs by expectant partners.
Try to take some time to exercise, visit friends, or spend time on a hobby.
Stapleton LR, et al. (2012). Perceived partner support in pregnancy predicts lower maternal and infant distress. Journal of Family Psychology, 26(3): 453–463.
Other Works Consulted
Redshaw M, Henderson J (2013). Fathers' engagement in pregnancy and childbirth: Evidence from a national survey. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 13: 70.
http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2393/13/70. Accessed October 9, 2013.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.