The Expecting Father

Pregnant mom with dad holding stomach
Fathers are often the neglected partners in reproduction. People tend to forget that fathers also have valid feelings, hopes, and fears about pregnancy, childbirth, and their new babies. Until recently, the amount of information available for fathers has been quite sparse. This section of the site is dedicated to the concerns of fathers during this exciting yet scary time in their lives.

Concerns during pregnancy

All fathers worry about their partner’s health and the development of their baby during pregnancy. Fathers naturally want to protect their loved ones from harm. If you are an expectant father, you can rest assured that most women have perfectly normal pregnancies and deliveries. Also, the vast majority of babies are born healthy and without complications. Pregnancy and childbirth are natural life events that do not pose a physical threat to your partner, especially if she is receiving proper medical care.

There are things you can do to help your partner have a safe and comfortable pregnancy. Make sure she receives the best medical care possible. Attending medical appointments with your partner will demystify the pregnancy. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or seeing it swim around on an ultrasound will make the pregnancy “real” for you. Your partner will also appreciate if you go with her when she needs to have medical tests done, especially if your baby’s health is compromised in any way.

Encourage your partner to eat a proper diet, get enough exercise, and stay away from alcohol and cigarettes. The best way to do this is to eat the same diet, exercise along with her, and stop drinking and smoking yourself. Try not to think of these changes as a huge sacrifice, but rather as a way to experience the pregnancy with your partner. Another thing you can do to help is to make your partner’s life as stress-free as possible. Take on some extra chores so that she can rest. Be there for her when she needs your emotional support.

Feeling left out

While she is pregnant, your partner receives a lot of attention, and you may feel left out. If these feelings are allowed to grow, they might turn into resentment and jealousy. The best way to resolve your feelings are to get involved with the pregnancy. Part of this includes attending the health care provider visits, eating right, and exercising with your partner, as mentioned above. In addition, you can educate yourself by reading pregnancy books and attending childbirth classes. Read everything your partner reads. Finally, talk to your partner about how you feel and keep the lines of communication open.

Dealing with mood swings

Expecting fathers sometimes find their partners’ mood swings to be especially hard to understand. Mood swings may be caused in part by the extra hormones that arise during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. The emotional changes and demands of taking on the roles of pregnancy and impending parenthood can also contribute to mood swings. It is possible that you may also feel moody at times for the same reasons and need someone to talk to. Try not to become angry or frustrated with your partner if she has a sudden burst of emotion. Instead, be understanding and reassuring, and offer her a shoulder to cry on if she needs it. Listen to her feelings and worries. Be aware of, and seek help for, any signs of depression, both in your partner and in yourself:

  • feeling out of control
  • unpredictable tearfulness and spontaneous crying
  • feelings of sadness, melancholy, weary anger, or general despair
  • sleep disturbances
  • a total loss of sexual energy

Worries about sex

Expectant fathers are often concerned about having sex with their partner while she is pregnant. As long as she is healthy and feeling good, sex is not a problem during pregnancy. Women usually feel under the weather during the first trimester, so they might not be too interested in sex. However, their symptoms usually calm down in the second trimester and they may feel more erotic than usual because of their increased vaginal secretions. Don’t worry: having sex won’t hurt your baby.

Nicolette Caccia, MEd, MD, FRCSC

Rory Windrim, MB, MSc, FRCSC

9/11/2009


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