How Can Partners Be Supportive During Pregnancy?
Your partner is pregnant, and things are getting real. Even though a lot of the attention is on her and the upcoming baby for the next 9 months (and more), you may be wondering where your place is in all this. How do you help prepare for all the life changes your family is about to go through?
Just by the fact that you're here wanting to know how you can support, we know you're off on the right foot to being a supportive partner through pregnancy.
Verywell Family references various studies that prove just how critical a partner's support can be during this time. They found that women without partner support had greater levels of anxiety and depression—but those with support experienced significantly less stress during the pregnancy. Specifically, emotional support, financial support, and participation—such as attending prenatal appointments—were all linked with lower stress levels for mothers. And a mom's mental health impacts the baby's health.
So, we know being supportive during pregnancy is important and beneficial, but how do you do that? To get some ideas, we polled our Parent Support Community of over 23,000 parents, and here are some of the answers we found:
Going to the store late at night to see if you can find anything close to that custard-filled pastry she saw on The Great British Baking Show.
Going out early in the morning when she wakes up hungry to get her the one thing she can stomach for breakfast.
Rubbing her legs to help curtail the effects of restless leg syndrome that has gotten worse during pregnancy so she can sleep.
Finding her a maternity pillow to sleep with (it may be the only thing that helps her get some shut-eye).
The point here is to listen, figure out what her needs are, and be willing to find a way to help. The key is to find the dynamic and balance that works best for you as a couple, and move forward with that.
Let's dive deeper into specific things you can do to support your partner through pregnancy and prepare for your little one coming soon.
Start by asking her what would help. Be open about your communication about this. Each woman will have different preferences for how they want their partner to be involved. Work out a plan that works for your family. But also, be proactive in helping with some things without her having to tell you. It's all about finding a balance.
Right now is also a good opportunity to invest some time to strengthen your relationship. If this is your first baby, enjoy these last few months with just the two of you. If you already have children, shower them (and each other!) with love and attention now before the big adjustment of having a new family member.
Take this time to learn all you can about pregnancy and parenting. Borrow some books from the library on these topics, or check out some blogs to learn more. Later in pregnancy, it's also a good idea to take childbirth classes with your partner. Talking with friends who've just had babies can be another great way to get advice and mentally prepare.
Here are a couple resources to get you started:
Our blog post, “I’m Pregnant - Now What?!”—the complete guide to beginning a pregnancy journey, and everything you'll want to do or think about when your partner first gets that positive pregnancy test result.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: A Partner's Guide to Pregnancy
Offer Physical Support
Your partner's body is going to go through a lot of changes in the next nine months—and afterward, too! Be prepared to go with the flow, as she might need different things from month to month, day to day, and even from minute to minute.
In the first trimester, a pregnant mother will often deal with extra fatigue and nausea. Her appetite (when she has one) may be very limited to specific things. Don't take it personally if she isn't feeling up to eating the dinner you've made one night—she may just be trying not to throw up. And let her sleep in a little when you can.
In the second trimester, things often level out a little bit. For many women, the nausea is reduced (or disappears entirely). Their energy picks up. And so does their appetite. This is usually the time when she's ready to eat more to compensate for all the hard work of growing a baby. And, you might start to notice some weird pregnancy cravings, too.
Finally, the third trimester. This is when she'll start to get much bigger—and often more uncomfortable, too. Sleeping can be difficult because she can't find a good position (again, a maternity pillow could be a great investment right about now). Her feet may get swollen. She might deal with heartburn. And she may move more slowly, as her joints and muscles are getting fatigued from the extra weight. Be patient. Offer to give her a massage, bring her a foot rest, put a pillow behind her back, or whatever else you can think of that might help her comfort level.
Throughout the pregnancy, support her in making healthy lifestyle choices. Encourage her to exercise and eat a healthy diet (and even better—join her!). Support her in dietary changes she needs to make, like not drinking alcohol, cutting back on coffee, and not smoking.
Offer Emotional Support
On top of the fact that your partner is going through a lot of physical changes AND life changes, she's got new hormones coursing through her body that may cause mood swings. Try to be patient and sensitive with her emotions. Listen to her vent when she needs to. It may help to ask if she wants you to solve the problem for her, or if she just needs you to listen.
Be sure to express your feelings, too! She may be carrying more of the weight (literally), but you two are partners in this new journey. Open up to her about how all the new changes are making you feel—the positive and the negative. If you're looking for additional support from parents who have been or are going through the same things as you, reach out to our Parent Support Community on Facebook.
Help with Planning and Decision-Making
A lot of planning goes into having a baby. Participate in the preparations. There are several decisions you and your partner could make together, including:
What baby equipment to buy (crib, car seat, stroller, baby carrier, high chair—the works). You might also want to research the best care-taking items for your baby, such as diapers, wipes, soap, pacifiers, etc.
Who will be able to take parental leave time off work, and for how long?
Your income situation—will you need care for your child (daycare or family members) so you can go back to work? Or will one parent be caring for your child at home??
How to set up the nursery. You may need to help with the physical set-up, because it may be difficult for your partner to be lifting and moving things around.
How to feed the baby. Will the baby be breastfed? Or formula fed? Or a combination of the two? What type of bottles should you choose? Be open to the fact that sometimes situations change, and your feeding plan for your baby may need to adjust in the future. To get the full scoop (pun intended!) on all things formula, check out our Best Organic Baby Formula: 2021 Buyers Guide.
Birth plan choices. What type of birth will you have? Where would you like the birth to take place? Will you hire a doula to help advocate for the birth plan and support during and after pregnancy? It may be best to let your partner lead much of the decision-making in this area, as she will be the one giving birth. See how involved she wants you to be, and give your support and opinion whenever needed. And again, keep in mind that the birth "plan" may not always go exactly according to plan.
In addition to decision-making, you can lend your support by attending some prenatal appointments with your partner (especially the more eventful ones, like where you'll see your baby via ultrasound.)
You might talk, sing, or read to your baby once they're able to hear your voice from the womb (this begins at around 24 weeks). Help pack the hospital bag. As labor begins and you prepare to go to the hospital, stay calm, comfort your partner, remind her to breathe (and maybe yourself, too). And welcome your little one with cuddles when they arrive.
Keep in mind that intimacy with your partner may change during pregnancy—and probably for a little while after your baby is born, too. It should be totally safe, as long as you both feel up to it. Be patient with her, and willing to try new positions, if needed. Sometimes you may also need to find other ways to connect physically, like cuddling, kissing, and massage.
Take Care of Yourself, Too
There's so much focus on the pregnant mother and the upcoming baby right now. Because of this, it's often overlooked that partners can get overwhelmed and even experience anxiety or depression during or after pregnancy. Open up and talk about this with your partner. Discuss your concerns and stresses. Be willing to reach out and talk with a therapist, if needed.
Develop habits to help manage your stress, such as exercise, adequate sleep, and meditation. Finding outlets in your hobbies (and making time for them) can be beneficial, too. Try engaging in sports, games, art, reading, or writing—whatever works for you.
Seek out resources for new parents so you can feel more prepared. For example, you might check out this downloadable resource from Beyond Blue: Emotional Health and Wellbeing: A Guide for New Dads, Partners and Other Carers.
In addition to caring for your partner, it's important that you take good care of yourself, too. Becoming a parent is a big deal and a significant life change. Before you know it, the pregnancy will be over and you'll be learning the ropes of parenting as your baby develops. Investing in yourself now and in the future will better equip you to become the best parent you can be for your little one.
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