Pregnancy may well be one of the most intense trials humankind must face, even if it’s a joyous occasion which offers hope and fulfillment (and of course challenges) for the years to come.
Yes, we mean an intense trial for dads-to-be, too, and not because they have to “put up” with their pregnant partner. More now than ever, your partner will need your support as an equal in the pregnancy process. She may be the only one of you who is pregnant, but the pregnancy affects both of you.
Before we dive into a list of ways to stand supportively beside your partner during pregnancy, first and foremost accept that whatever your pregnant partner is going through is worse than your own experiences. No matter how cranky she is, how much time you take off work to care for her, or how many sacrifices you make during her pregnancy to maintain your home’s orderliness, never hold this against your partner.
She’s doing her own stint of hard work, even if it’s difficult for you to tangibly see or understand on some days.
Don’t believe us? Then let’s take some time to get these facts straight.
Understanding Pregnancy from Your Partner’s Perspective
There are no mincing words here—pregnancy is brutal. To get you started with a few ideas of how rough these nine months will be for your partner, we’ve gathered some statistics that will really blow your mind.
- While a normal uterus is about the size of an orange, housed within the pelvis, it will stretch to become watermelon-sized throughout pregnancy. By the last trimester, the uterus will become so large that it will stretch from its typical resting place in the pelvis all the way to the bottom of your partner’s rib cage.
- It’s not just the uterus which increases in size—a woman’s heart, feet, and even the amount of blood in her body all grow during pregnancy.
- The force of each contraction during labor is equivalent to roughly 400 pounds of pressure per square foot.
- During a woman’s first delivery, her pelvic bone separates in the middle, attached only by a piece of stretched cartilage. This bone never comes back together, either, Dr. Nina Hinting explains to Parents magazine.
It’s needless to say that the amount of stress pregnancy puts on your partner’s body and mind is unfathomable, but what can you do to help?
Taking the Plunge Together
We’ve got you covered with a handful of the best ways you can be a good partner during this difficult time.
1. Just as important as knowing what to do during your partner’s pregnancy is to know what not to say.
Sometimes, silence is golden, and it’s always a good idea to be conscientious of your complaints.
Dr. Robert Stewart, an OB-GYN working at UT Southwestern Medical Center, recalls a time when he once told his pregnant wife that he wasn’t sleeping well. This didn’t end well for him, and it probably won’t go over well for you, either.
Sure, you might be tired, but take a second to consider what your partner is going through. As her body changes with the pregnancy, it becomes more and more difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. (By the way, never complain about the number of pillows she’s using, either.) Plus, pregnant women may have to rise several times during the night to urinate.
She will deal with this for nine months, so keep that in perspective whenever you have a rough few nights of sleep (or when you want to complain about anything else).
2. Speaking of words, talk ahead of time about an open policy for venting and communication.
Let your partner know up front that you’re available for her to talk to when her symptoms get tough, when her mental exhaustion gets the best of her, and when she’s feeling frustrated by the changes to her body (and her life). It may seem a simple gesture, but it’s an important one.
3. Educate yourself. That’s right—it’s time to read up.
Maybe that’s how you found this article. If so, good for you! But don’t stop here. Follow along with the stages of your partner’s pregnancy, and make it a team effort to learn about the biology of what’s going on in your partner’s changing body. What better time to learn about human development than when it’s truly happening, (almost) right in front of your eyes?
There’s no end to the information you can find about pregnancy. If you’re loath to dive into a textbook, we don’t blame you. Instead, check out some pregnancy-related books written for new parents, which you can find at your local bookstore or library. If you’re feeling scholarly, browse some peer-reviewed journals. Plenty of literary reviews exist which summarize years’ worth of scientific studies, and these reviews are chock-full of information.
Of course, you can always rely on the internet to get you the information you need. From reliable medical sources to personal blogs, the amount of data available will surely keep you busy for nine months.
Don’t forget to share your most interesting finds with your partner!
4. Treat her doctor’s appointments like they’re your own.
Do whatever it takes to ensure that you can attend each and every appointment with her. Not only will this reduce some of her stress, but attending appointments also demonstrates your support for both her and for your family-to-be.
Being a part of your partner’s medical experiences throughout the pregnancy is also one of the best ways to educate yourself about pregnancy and your partner’s individual experience, too. Sure, we recommended that you read up as much as you can, but there’s nothing like getting the scoop directly from the source.
5. Be an active part of planning for the future, and take initiative while making preparations for a new member of your family.
Whether you’re preparing a nursery, moving to a more spacious location, planning a baby shower, or just purchasing your first packages of diapers, be an active part of the process.
Be the first to ask your partner about her opinions, too. Demonstrating that you value her while simultaneously taking an active role in some of the more difficult work that comes with preparing for a family is like a double-whammy of helpfulness.
6. Attend a birthing class together.
If your partner is planning to have a natural birth, registering for a birthing class is one of the best ways she (and you) can learn about what to expect during labor and delivery. Many of these classes, such as the one offered by the University of North Carolina Medical Center, focus their teachings around the way that both the mother and her labor support partner can make the most of the labor and delivery experience.
Taking a class like this is a must in order to keep labor more peaceful (or, as peaceful as possible). Most importantly, it’s preparing you and your partner both mentally and physically for labor. No freak-outs necessary.
7. Be by her side as much as possible, even during labor.
Remember when we covered a few things never to say during pregnancy? First and foremost, let’s get this out of the way—there are also some things to never say during labor.
Any mentions of disgust at the sight of birth— “gross,” “ew,” or even just a repulsed “wow” are the last things she needs to hear. Labor is messy, but it’s not disgusting. Instead, prepare yourself to see the beauty in it.
Secondly, don’t attempt to comfort your partner by saying something along the lines of, “Oh, it’s okay. The pain can’t be that bad, right?” Childbirth is arguably one of the most painful things a human can experience, so let your partner be in pain. Let her scream, let her complain, and let her squeeze your fingers until they’re bruised. Just be thankful you’ll never have to go through the same thing she is.
Seriously, never say these things, as they’re about the most tactless and least empathetic comments you could possibly make during such a labor-intensive process (no pun intended).
Most of all, show appreciation, respect, and just be present. Hold her hand, hold her, and ask both your partner and the medical staff how you can be most helpful. Depending on how labor progresses, there may be times when you can’t be present immediately beside your partner. During these moments away, let her know that you’ll be nearby, then stick around in a waiting area so that you’re ready the moment you’re needed. Your attentiveness will be necessary during labor more than ever.
Pregnancy can be a frightening time for both the mother and father, and it may be that, as a new dad-to-be, you’re even more intimidated after reading this hefty list of dos and don’ts. In the end, though, surviving pregnancy with your partner is a simple thing—above all, value empathy, teamwork, patience, and humility in your interactions with your partner.
Instead of embracing fear, aim for excitement. Shifting your attitude toward the positive will be contagious, and it will do wonders to improve both you and your partner’s experience as you prepare to start a family.