What to Expect When Your Partner Is Expecting

Although the mom-to-be is typically the focus, many expectant dads and partners experience a range of emotions as well.

As a parent-to-be, your involvement is extremely important. Your support and encouragement can significantly influence your partner’s labor and delivery experience – as well as your own. In fact, women whose partners are present during labor and delivery report less pain and request less medication. What's more, your experience during pregnancy, labor and delivery sets the stage for the kind of involvement you will have as a new parent.

The benefits of a parent's involvement are priceless. But the rewards are not always immediate. It takes some work – and a willingness to be open to change. Given these impending life changes, it’s normal for new parents to be to have some concerns or worries about what’s to come.

Frequently, changes fall into three distinct stages:

Stage 1: Why me, why now?

In this stage, you might find yourself concerned about finances and the impact of children on your relationship. The impact of the pregnancy on you during this stage often is minimal, as you can go about your normal work and recreational routines.

Stage 2: Nesting

The second phase is the warm, creative, feeling stage. During this stage you might feel compelled to build something – a crib or cradle – or you might take on a remodeling project. Some partners put on weight during this stage and are not the least bit concerned about it.

Stage 3: High anxiety

The third stage is a waiting period. Anxiety surfaces as the due date approaches. Excitement builds as you hear your baby’s heart beat and feel your baby move. You also might become concerned about the developing child’s health.

During this stage, you may begin to notice babies all around you, and wonder where they all came from. (It’s not that there are more babies, it’s just that you’re noticing them.) You’ll also find yourself coming to terms with the image of yourself as a parent. As part of this process, you may assess the role models you had growing up. You’ll also be adjusting to your partner’s new image as a mother, taking into account the physical changes in her appearance.

Don’t be alarmed if at times during the pregnancy you feel left out. Women experiencing unpredictable emotional shifts, fear of the unknown and feelings of unattractiveness may seem distant or preoccupied. You and your partner might move through various stages at different times and in different ways and feel out of sync with each other. Good communication skills and a willingness to share will help you over these rough spots

Throughout pregnancy and after your child’s birth, you might find it helps to talk with others who are expecting babies. An informal support network can provide just the forum you need to help with fears and give you insights about your own situation.

Learn more about the Fairview and HealthEast’s maternity care.

Some content provided by Rick Bell, PhD, LP. Bell is a father and a psychologist. He is co-founder of the "For a Father and His Baby" program.

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