Expectant Dads: Pregnancy and Birth Tips for New Fathers
Pregnancy and Birth Tips for New Dads
Tips for New Dads
For new dads and expectant fathers, pregnancy and childbirth can be unknown, uncharted territory. Sure, they have the experience of knowing that the expectant mom has new life growing inside of her, but without the actual, physical experience, they may be left behind when it comes to knowing what is really happening to the expectant mom's body as she continues on with pregnancy and gives birth.
How can men possibly understand pregnancy symptoms and experiences? How are they supposed to participate in the pregnancy stages and birth of their child?
Here is a little guide for new dads, explaining what their role could be in the pregnancy and birth process.
First Trimester Pregnancy Symptoms
Early Pregnancy Symptoms
Would you recognize these early pregnancy symptoms in your spouse or partner?
Signs of Being Pregnant
Every man should have some idea about pregnancy symptoms, whether or not he is trying to conceive with his spouse or partner. Knowing the key symptoms can help him be more in tune with what's going on in his spouse or partner's body and try to help her as much as possible.
Here are some of the early signs of pregnancy to be on the lookout for:
- Missed period: She may say something to the effect that she is 'late' or she may not have some of the classic PMS symptoms she experiences like clockwork every month.
- Increased fatigue. Is she tired all of the time, more so than usual? Would she rather nap than do anything else? Is she sleeping well at night but still tired during the day?
- Frequent urination. Does she seem to run to the bathroom more often, even though she's not drinking that much?
- Headaches. While it's common to have headaches during a period, some women notice an increase in headaches when they first become pregnant.
- Nausea and vomiting. This may not happen until the 5th or 6th week of pregnancy, but some women may experience morning sickness sooner. Be aware of smells or foods that suddenly make her ill.
These early pregnancy symptoms can be subtle hints that your spouse or partner may be pregnant. Be on the lookout for them if you think she may be pregnant.
If your spouse or partner is expecting, you may feel super excited or you may have some mixed feelings about adding a baby into the mix. Don't worry; both reactions are completely normal. However you feel, be sure to let your spouse or partner know that you'll be there to help as needed and that you're willing to take on extra responsibilities as a new dad. Giving her this reassurance can help her feel better about the pregnancy and all of the new symptoms she is experiencing as she becomes a new mom.
Even though your spouse or wife may not be noticeably pregnant yet, pregnancy is still exhausting. A woman's body goes through many changes and much of her energy is devoted to making the baby and keeping the baby alive. Be sensitive to the fact that fatigue is a part of pregnancy and may continue throughout the entire pregnancy!
For tips about pregnancy fatigue, visit: How to Fight Pregnancy Fatigue.
Do Men Get Pregnancy Symptoms?
Do men actually get pregnancy symptoms, or is it all in their heads?
Congratulations if you just found out you're going to be a new father! Now that you know for sure that a baby will be coming in about nine months, it's time to address something that very, very few men know about: couvade syndrome.
Couvade syndrome, a term which comes from a French term meaning "to hatch",is when a man experiences some of the symptoms of pregnancy--namely weight gain, nausea, insomnia, mood swings, and other ailments--without actually being pregnant. It's as if men are either trying to get sympathy from others or get some attention since their spouse or partner gets all of the sympathy and attention.
But is that the case, men? Studies have shown that these symptoms are indeed real, but researchers aren't quite sure why men experience the symptoms since the symptoms are not faked just for the sake of attention.
Most new fathers will experience the weight gain and the insomnia only because they are eating along with the expectant mother and staying awake at night wondering how they will be as a new dad. If this is you, take heart: you're not alone. There are many, many men out there who will gain a little weight from overindulging in the pregnancy cravings, and also many, many men staying awake at night wondering how they can manage as a father.
If you feel as if you may be succumbing to the weight gain, try to encourage healthy eating habits and staying active in between all of the cravings:
- Make a few healthy snacks that are easy for both of you to grab, like cut up veggies or a trail mix.
- Go on a leisurely walk, even if it's doing laps in a baby store.
- Stay hydrated with a lot of water that will help keep you feeling full.
If you're worried about being a new dad, pick up some baby books to read or view a few videos on YouTube that will encourage you and give you some helpful tips.
Don't underestimate yourself as a father! You'd be surprised how much you can do once the baby arrives.
Being a Good Father
Pregnancy Doctor Visits
Once your spouse or partner finds out she is pregnant, she should contact her doctor, most likely her OB/GYN to schedule her prenatal appointments. It is crucial for her health and the baby's health that the expectant mom receives proper prenatal care during the pregnancy.
What is your role in these appointments as the expectant father? For at least the first prenatal visit, you may be asked to complete a medical history form to help the doctor determine what kinds of tests the expectant mother may need throughout the pregnancy.
After the first visit, you can just be there for support. Of course, if you have any questions for the doctor, feel free to ask! The more involved you are with the pregnancy, the better you may feel about becoming a new dad.
What can you expect at these visits? The expectant mother will experience the following:
- Full gynecological exam, at least for the first visit
- Weight check
- Blood pressure check
- Urine analysis (for protein and sugar in the urine, to indicate possible problems)
- Checklist of symptoms
- Measurement of the belly bump (usually after 20 weeks)
- Ultrasounds (usually at around 6-7 weeks and 20 weeks)
Throughout the pregnancy, if issues arise, there may be some tests the expectant mother may need to get, like a glucose tolerance test to check for gestational diabetes or more advanced ultrasounds. Rest assured that these tests are safe and can help the doctor determine the health and well-being of the baby.
Prenatal visits are once a month at first, and then they are more frequent toward the end of the second trimester. By 28 weeks, you may see the doctor every 3 weeks. Usually after 32 weeks, visits change to every 2 weeks, and after 36 weeks, visits are once a week.
It's okay if you're not able to make all of the visits due to work, etc. Try to be there for as many as you can.
Tips for New Dads
Help During Pregnancy
As the pregnancy moves on into the second and third trimesters, your pregnant spouse or partner may become more and more tired and less likely to be able to move or lift heavy items like grocery bags or baby furniture. This is when you can be a huge help and take over some of the chores and other activities that she may normally do, such as:
- Grocery shopping. This can be something that you can do together, but there may be times when you'll have to go alone.
- Changing the kitty litter or walking the dog. It is generally advised that pregnant women stay away from cat litter as the mess in the litter can contain toxoplasmosis, a potentially dangerous infection that can cause vision or hearing problems in the developing baby. You can also offer to walk the dog and clean up after it, especially if it is a larger dog that tugs or pulls on the leash and can cause a pregnant woman to pull a muscle or fall.
- Setting up the nursery. While the expectant mother may be the one to plan and design the nursery, you should be the one to paint it and arrange the furniture.
- Helping with household chores. Offer to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, mop the floors, and do the laundry. Anything you can do to allow the expectant mother to rest will be helpful and much appreciated.
Of course, for some bonus points, you can do some special things for the expectant mom, like scheduling a prenatal massage, a pedicure or manicure, or even allowing her to indulge in her favorite craving (even if it is in the middle of the night).
Toxoplasmosis and Pregnancy
Childbirth Education Classes
One of the best ways to prepare for the birth of your baby is to attend a childbirth education class. There you can learn about the birth process, especially what the expectant mother can experience during labor and delivery. You can also learn about ways to help the expectant mother, such as helping her breathe, helping her concentrate on a focal point during contractions, and ways to help her deal with her pain.
While you're there, you may discuss or watch videos about giving birth, the possibility of c-sections, pain management, and taking care of a newborn. Ask any questions you may have at this point. The more you know, the more prepared you'll be when delivery day comes!
Childbirth Classes Online
Driving to the Hospital
When contractions are 5-6 minutes apart and consistent, the expectant mother may be in labor, which means one thing: it's time for the drive to the hospital!
Unless the baby is on his or her way out, there's no reason to panic or drive like a maniac. It's best to drive safely and calmly. Make sure both you and the expectant mom are wearing safety belts, and drive according to the speed limit.
Prior to having to drive to the hospital, it may be a good idea to map out a route to the hospital or birthing center. Be aware of any construction zones you may encounter and figure out a few detours so that you can make it to your destination.
Once there, you'll have to assist the expectant mother to the labor and delivery department, where she'll have to register (or hand in her pre-registration forms). After that, the nurses and staff will take over and you'll just need to follow their instructions.
Tips for New Dads
As you're driving, try to avoid pot holes or particularly bumpy roads as much as possible. The expectant mom may be in a lot of pain, and any unnecessary jolts or bouncing may not help her stay calm and relaxed.
Dads in the Delivery Room
Once the expectant mom is admitted into the labor and delivery department and hooked up to the monitors, reality may set in with you that you'll be a new father very, very soon. Now is not the time to dwell on that though; now is the time to devote your energies to helping the expectant mom with the progression of labor and giving birth.
In the delivery room, you'll be experiencing many sights and sounds that you have never encountered before. If you tend faint or become sick at the sight of blood or needles, you may want to think about stepping out of the room for a minute whenever a procedure is done. Also, you may want to consider sitting down when it's time for the baby to come out (although many expectant fathers aren't bothered by the birth part since they are thinking more about seeing the new baby). The last thing that the nurses or the expectant mom need to worry about is you falling to the floor and possibly injuring yourself if you cannot handle some of the aspects of labor and delivery.
Be ready with a camera or your smart phone to capture all of the special moments, but make sure not to bother or ignore the expectant mom as she is laboring. It can be tempting to spend all of your time on social media sites or playing games on your phone, but try not too much unless your spouse or partner is resting or just wants to be left alone.
If during labor you become hungry, it is okay to step out for a snack and drink or to have a small snack in the room, but try not to eat right in front of the expectant mom. She will most likely not be allowed to eat as she labors, and she may become upset if she sees you with food.
Keep in mind that as the expectant mom labors, she may be in intense pain and discomfort, and may say some things that will sound harsh. Try not to take things personally; she's trying to handle her pain the best way she can and can get upset at the slightest thing. Do what you can to help her feel more comfortable in between contractions and continue to support her.
When it comes time to push, you may need to help hold up the expectant mom's leg on one side or help her get into a position that will help the baby come out better. Encourage her to breathe and help her count as she is pushing. Follow all of the instructions of the nurses, doctor, and staff, and try not to be in the way with the camera.
You may be asked to cut the cord once the baby is born. If you are willing to do it, just follow the doctor's instructions. It will not hurt the baby or the mom as the cord does not have any nerves in it.
Tips for Dads in the Delivery Room
What to Pack in a Hospital Bag
a small gift to say thanks
a small gift to welcome him or her
books or magazines
change for vending machine
cell phone and charger
tablet or e-reader
extra change of clothes
toiletries (in case of overnight stay)
"Push Present" Ideas
It is popular now to bring the new mom a push present, which is basically a present saying "Good Job!" for all of the pushing she did to get the baby out. These gifts also apply to moms who needed a c-section since they went through a lot as well!
Here are a few ideas:
- Mom jewelry, with the birthstone of the baby
- Jewelry she has had her eye on or that you'll know she'll like
- Photo frame for a picture of her and the baby
- Special new item for the nursery
- E-Reader loaded with bedtime books for baby (and a few of her favorites too)
Dad Holding a Baby
Becoming a Father
Once that tiny little being is placed in your arms, you are officially a new dad. Enjoy bonding with your child, holding him or her and just staring at the cute little features that you helped to create.No matter what, give yourself time to learn the ropes of fatherhood, and don't underestimate yourself. In time, you'll learn the basics of taking care of a newborn, and before you know it, you'll be a pro.
Best wishes to you and your new little family!