Pregnancy and your relationship

Pregnancy, like other stresses of life, can take their toll on a relationship. It's important more than ever for you both to feel suppported and strong for the family life ahead, but how?

Getting pregnant – planned or unplanned – is a huge challlenge for any relationship. Joy and excitement are matched by fear of the unknown and possible worries about whether or not you’ll make good parents, can afford this life change, or even that will both want to be together forever as a commitment to this new life.
These feelings are all totally understandable, and for a woman, are added to by the rollercoaster ride some women have with their hormones during pregnancy.
Until the baby arrives, the man might well feel there’s not much for him to do. If so, check out our lighthearted guide to What every partner should know during pregnancy, and read on…

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Honesty counts
OK, it sounds like a cliché, but you would be amazed how easy it is to hold your feelings and fears back from your partner. ‘Silly’ worries may play on your mind but seem too small to voice, and then all of a sudden they become big worries usually just because you haven’t bounced them around in discussion with your partner.
If this seems hard, maybe sound them out with a friend (or here on ThinkBaby’s forums) before you talk to him or her. You might find this makes it easier to put what you feel into words before you have your big conversation, and hopefully airing the issues will make you realise they are worth sharing with your partner, too.
Before starting to try for a baby, or once you both sit down and realise that it’s real, discuss the potential pitfalls. Don’t be fatalistic that you are going to get depressed, sick or row all the time, but discuss possibilities and how you might overcome these together. Doing this before any real issues arise can help to put troubles into perspective if they do crop up.
Also, try to find good role models among your friends. Maybe someone at work who seems relatively sane and is having their fourth child! Maybe your parents, and aunt and uncle, or someone else a generation older than you. Sound them out about how they made things work, and be realistic that life isn’t always straightforward, but that makes it all the more interesting!

Cut yourself some slack, girls
Pregnant women, not all but many, find that the changes to their hormones, plus subliminal worries about this huge event to come – the birth – take their toll on their emotions. Do not feel this is a bad thing, it’s a sign that your body is adjusting to the amazing being growing inside you.
Look for natural remedies to stress and bad moods where you can – massages, light exercises that you have always enjoyed, good food, a day to yourself to kick-back and chill out – and if you still feel the pressure, don’t be afraid to talk to your GP or midwife.
If you don’t feel sexy, don’t feel guilty about having less sex. Think about nice things you are in a mood for with your partner, and don’t presume that early weeks of queasiness mean you’re going to feel totally unromantic for a full nine months. You might find you get very horny in the last weeks!
Dig out clothes you like and feel good in, or get a new haircut. Even if you’re not in a leatherette mini-skirt and boots combo (!), your feeling brighter will have a knock-on effect with your partner.
If you have a partner who refers to your bump as ‘fat’, feel free give him a verbal warning that his own beer belly is overdue for some prolonged mocking. Or tell his sister or mother what he said – they’ll take their revenge for you!
Seriously, if your partner makes small jibes, it might be because he is anxious about the birth in some way. Quite possibly because he fears it’s going to change your relationship, that you won’t have time for each other, that your body isn’t going to look like the one he fancied. None of these HAVE to be true of your own experience, but it’s up to both of you to be down-to-earth and work at what you are afraid of together.

Cut yourself some slack, boys
It might be the 21st Century, but it’s a fact that many men still worry about needing to be the ‘hunter gatherer’ for their new family.
Almost all relationships these days are far more equal – in careers, ability to home build, a more free exchange of who takes the lead role in various things in your life together – so just voice these worries to your partner. It will help you get some better perspective.
Don’t feel redundant. During pregnancy, all the check-ups and scans are centred around the mother-to-be, but you’re going to have a huge job helping her through the birth. Take time to find out about pain relief, birth options, the hospital you’re using and so on, with her. And if you can, try to get along as a support for at least some of the scans or tests.
It will help you understand what she’s going through much more. If work prevents you getting along, ask her about them, don’t brood that you couldn’t make it. Just be engaged in what’s going on.
Some dads-to-be take on the mission of nest building during pregnancy. This is a great way to feel useful but also to look ahead. It focuses you on the birth without giving you a chance to fret about it. Maybe make it your task to find the perfect buggy and car seat, too. You’d be amazed how many baby product manufacturers are re-positioning their wares to appeal to the dad these days!
Importantly, though you may quite rightly feel your partner has a right to feel unsexy or less often in the mood for sex during her pregnancy, it’s also understandable that you might still be very much in the mood. Discuss a good balance between you, or find new (perhaps less taxing!) ways to be intimate – baths together, watching a DVD together of a film you saw when you were first dating etc, maybe try some pregnancy massage oils on each other.

Two’s company, but three isn’t always a crowd
You don’t need to bring every worry back to the home with you.
Although we have said that honesty is important, you might have much more relationship STUFF to deal with now than you have had in recent months or years. Both of you need to find good friends who can be there to help you air other things.
Maybe work issues, other obsessions like shopping, sport, or even other relationships (your family perhaps) can be shared with friends so that by the time you see your partner at home, you can enjoy yourselves or get to the nitty gritty of what you want to share.

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You haven’t married a Martian
Changes in your emotional state – for either of you – are rarely permanent. You are both going to get through these nine months and there is an end in sight!
Once the baby arrives there will be new challenges, but if you are both honest with the fact that being a parent is a wonderful but serious deal, you can really begin to relax and enjoy it.

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