Being an active partner involved in pregnancy can be even more challenging than being involved after the little one is born. Pregnancy can still seem like it is all about the person who is pregnant, and of course, the physical aspects of pregnancy are experienced only by them, but it is also important for partners to be part of the experience.
There is more to pregnancy than the physical part. There is also an emotional preparation that happens during pregnancy which is important for expectant partners to share.
A Partner's Guide to Pregnancy
- Prepare emotionally: It is just as important for the expectant partner as it is for the person who is pregnant to be emotionally ready when having a baby. Nine months gives time for partners to read about babies and what to expect, particularly if being around young children will be a new experience. Engage in as many parts of the pregnancy as possible including accompanying your partner on doctor's visits; shopping for baby items; helping to paint or decorate the baby's room; setting up the cot; talking about names, etc. The more engaged you are in the process, the more a part of things you will feel.
- Work together: Sometimes the best laid plans for equality in relationships go by the wayside. This is a good time to re-evaluate the division of labour in your household. Even when both adults work outside the home, surveys show that the majority of household work is still done by one person in the relationship. Adding a baby to your home will mean a significant increase in responsibilities (as well as joys). Take some time during pregnancy to discuss with your partner how you think things will change and talk about how you might meet those new expectations. In some cases, you'll need to adjust responsibilities more quickly to help during pregnancy. While many pregnant partners feel great, many also experience challenges that limit what they can physically do and may require you to take on more before the baby's birth.
- Check your employee benefits: Many companies now offer more equal parental leave and paternity leave packages for new dads and partners. It's important to fully research what your options are, including any policies around time off for prenatal visits?
- Talk about your worries: We think of pregnancy as a happy time, but many partners find that it brings on concerns about finances (particularly if you are moving from two salaries to one); about the baby's health and how you will handle the new responsibilities and so on. Talk with your partner about your worries. You may also want to discuss this with other prospective and new parents to get tips about having a baby. Seeking out and asking for help and support is a sign of strength.
- Stay healthy together: You can support the health of your pregnant partner and your baby-to-be by cooking and eating healthy meals together and exercising together (take walks or do yoga, etc. as per the doctor's recommendations) throughout the pregnancy.
- Be proactive: Because the physical demands are on your partner, they may especially appreciate it if you are proactive in helping around your home and/or any help related to the pregnancy or with preparing for the baby. Don't wait to be asked and actively look for places you can make a difference.
- Planning for the birth: There is a lot to consider about the birth itself. Will your baby be born in a hospital, at home or in a birthing centre or pool? Who will be present? What role will you play? Attending childbirth classes together does a lot to help answer your questions and feel more prepared for the baby's arrival.
- Be present: Sometimes your physical and emotional presence is all that is needed to help share the pregnancy.
If you become engaged in the pregnancy it will help you reap the full benefits of this incredible time in your life and your family, but don't be hard on yourself for what you can't do. Work out what works for your schedule and that of your family, celebrate what you can do and strive to make as many key milestones as possible.