Men: A partner's role in early pregnancy
You might not think that there's much you can do to help your partner in the early months, but there is...
As a man you might think that you've done your bit for the time being and there's not much for you to do in the early months of your partner's pregnancy. After all, it doesn't look like there's much going on in there yet, does it? But actually, there is an incredible amount happening in these early weeks, in fact, by the time your partner is twelve weeks' pregnant (around the time of the first scan for most people) your baby will have formed all of his or her essential parts and will be a baby in miniature. While your life will probably go on pretty much as normal for a while, your partner's life may already be turned upside down by the emotional and physical effects of pregnancy. Luckily, however, there is plenty that you can do to support your partner through the enormous changes that her body is experiencing as it diverts so much energy into making a new person.
- Gen up - Many women start reading up on pregnancy and birth from the moment they find out that they are pregnant. It may take a little longer for the fact of the pregnancy to sink in for you, as you're not the one carrying the baby, but if you express interest and read up on what your partner is likely to be experiencing at this time it's a good start to being able to support her through the experience.
- Be patient - Particularly with a first pregnancy, your partner's quest for knowledge about all things pregnancy and baby may initially appear insatiable. If you find that you're being bombarded with did-you-knows, emails, books and non-stop baby-related conversation then try to be a little patient with her. Most likely this will settle down as she adjusts to her pregnant state. Remember that she's likely to be a little more sensitive than usual at the moment because of the hormones flooding her body, and if you appear dismissive or disinterested she may find this difficult to handle. You can assure her that you are interested and excited about the baby by perhaps initiating some of the conversation about it yourself, and by reading up off your own bat. It should then be easier for you to sometimes gently steer the conversation round to something else.
- Take on more chores - Pregnancy can be incredibly tiring - and not just when you're carrying around an obviously heavy bump. Many women feel completely exhausted in the early weeks, perhaps even before they realise that they are pregnant. Don't be too surprised if your partner is suddenly needing to nap in the middle of the day and hitting the sack by 9.30 in the evenings. And if she's also suffering from morning sickness (see below) she'll be left feeling even more wrung out. You can offer her support by being understanding when she is tired, and by taking on a greater share of the household chores to give her more time for herself. Do encourage her to get plenty of rest and both exercise and fresh air to restore her batteries. If your partner seems excessively tired then make sure that she mentions it to her health carer - she may have issues with low iron levels.
- Helping with morning sickness - Nausea and vomiting, usually referred to as morning sickness, is also quite common in these first few months, in fact, seven-in-ten pregnant women are affected by it to some degree. Despite its name, morning sickness can take hold at any time of day and vary from mild nausea to running for the bathroom at the slightest hint of an offensive smell - and an offensive smell could be anything, including you, your aftershave, or your breakfast! If she is suffering then you can help by taking over cooking duties, not wafting around things that may provoke her nausea, and by stocking up on the food and drinks that she can manage to keep down.
- Don't expect sex - Your sex life may be completely uninhibited by pregnancy, but if your partner is feeling tired, nauseous and generally out-of-sorts, then she's likely not to be very interested in sex for the time being. She also may simply be feeling very unsexy right now. You'll need to be patient and understanding about this. If you can make her feel that you are interested in her and find her sexy, without putting pressure on her for sex, then all the better. Take some comfort from the fact that many couples find that their sex life picks up again in pregnancy and it may even be more pleasurable than before.
Of course it may be that you are the one who can't face the idea of sex with a pregnant partner. If that is the case then do talk to your partner about it, but try to be very careful not to make her feel even more unattractive than she probably already does.
- In fact, don't expect anything - Every pregnancy - and every couple - is different, and while you can prepare for a few eventualities, you can't know how your partner or you partnership will be affected by mini-you that's busy growing right now. It's a good idea to be well-informed and to chat to other dads you know about what pregnancy can be like for both of you, but the main thing is to be patient with your partner, listen to any problems she may have, be understanding and help out where you can, and to make sure that she gets medical help with any pregnancy problems that she might suffer.
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