Susannah Birch is a certified birth doula, journalist, and owner of Trimester Talk, a leading pregnancy website.
When I was pregnant with my daughter I wanted to know how my husband could help me along - with both the pregnancy and the labor as well as what to expect once baby was born. I didn't know much myself except that I'd probably need all the support I could get.
However I found that there was not much available information on the internet. Most of it was very basic and was mainly based around the fact that women changed during labor into evil monsters and that you shouldn't ask them to hop back into bed for at least a few weeks after the birth.
Naturally, I wanted more. Once I had my baby girl and learnt the hard way I thought I'd write a basic guide for dads - so that they'll have a headstart on their responsibilities.
What you need to remember
- Every pregnancy is different. Some women have almost painless pregnancies while others can experience a wide range of symptoms anywhere from their head to their toes at anytime during the pregnancy.
- You need to trust your partner. If you disagree with a decision your partner has made about the pregnancy or baby, you need to discuss it with her as calmly as possible. Remember, this is her body and you can't understand the feelings or emotions she's experiencing.
- You need to support your partner. This is an important one. You need to stand by your partner, especially if this is the first child in your relationship. Your partner will likely be scared about making the wrong decision, so your support will help her. This means that if a close friend or parent questions your decisions, you need to be ready to take your partner's side!
- Hormones are a roller coaster. Your partner will be experiencing a rush of hormones as soon as she falls pregnant. These will continue in waves and surges throughout her pregnancy and can continue after the baby is born for up to a year or more as her body returns to normal. She may be extremely cranky one minute then dissolve into tears the next. Try your best to be supportive (it can be hard) and remember that her body is going through a LOT of changes.
- Be more considerate. An important part of pregnancy is less stress. That means that if you do that extra two minute job (like taking out the garbage) or making a nice meal now and then, you'll be helping both your partner and the baby.
- Learn a little. Be ready to learn the basics about pregnancy including the fact that there are three trimesters (of ~3 months each) and what to expect at different stages.
- Slow down. The larger your partner gets, the less she'll be able to do, including getting anywhere in a hurry (including out of a seat) and carrying or lifting anything. Be prepared to help out, lend a hand and slow down to wait for her.
- Go along. Goto the doctor, the ultrasound and the blood tests if possible. Your partner may be scared or worried about the tests or the baby. Be there for moral support - and a chance to see your baby in the womb!
First Time Dad
Preparing for labour
- Attend classes. If possible attend birthing classes with your partner. This way you can both learn from a professional about what is to come.
- Read your partner's birth plan. This is an important one. Your partner will feel less stressed about delivering the baby if she knows that you will be there to make sure her wishes are followed.
- Learn the basics. You need a basic understanding of what will happen during the birth. For instance you should be familiar with words such as caesarian and dilation and also have a basic understanding of pain relief choices available.
- Be prepared to be the errand boy. Your partner will probably be very cranky due to the pain so, if there isn't a midwife or nurse nearby (especially during early labour) you will probably need to find and organize things ranging from heatpacks to a drink or ice cubes. It's a good idea to make sure you know where things are as soon as possible, before the labour pains get too intense and you're both stressed.
- Don't take offence. Chances are that your lovely, sexy, longsuffering partner will turn into an evil, eye popping monster with a very loud roar. You probably won't be able to do anything right and, if you try to do something, you might get sworn at. Just imagine that an evil monster from out of space has taken over your partner's body. But remember - she still needs you and the wonderful woman you know will be back... once the baby arrives!
- Vet visitors. Even the most well meaning visitor can get in the way. Discuss with your partner her preferences - does she want visits limited to half an hour? Only after 3pm? Also discuss her wishes in relation to feeding and caring for the baby while visitors are present, so that she won't feel embarrassed.
- Help out. Motherhood is more often learnt than instinctual. Be prepared to change nappies, warm bottles or position baby for feeds.
- Support your partner. If your partner is sure that there is a problem with the baby, that something the doctor said was wrong or just wants to tell the in-laws she won't be doing everything they tell her, you need to support her. You are both new parents and it's important you do what's right for you and the baby - the outside world can wait.
- Pay your partner attention. You will both be thrown in the deep end but it's important that you show your partner you still care about her and are attracted to her. Just a quick hug, gentle pat or a simple compliment can help her feel better.
- Try to take time off. Off work that is! If you have at least a week off work, chances are you will both be able to adjust at least a little to the new screaming, pooping, gorgeous bundle that's your new child!
Top Tips for Dads to Be
► Try to get your holidays booked starting from the due date or a few days after. This way if baby goes overdue you'll still have plenty of time off.
► Make sure you have a spare bed set up. Near the end of pregnancy women can often be very uncomfortable and move around a lot - as well as fill the bed with strangely shaped pillows! The spare bed also gives one parent a chance to sleep while the other is on baby duty.
►Remember that every baby is different - they all poop, sleep and feed but they all do it at different times, in different amounts and different ways.
►Don't pressure your wife into bedroom activity too soon after the birth. It's usually a minimum of 5-6 weeks after the birth before your wife will be ready for any adult fun.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Hannah David Cini from Nottingham on February 05, 2015:
Lovely article. It's really nice to see something written for daddies, there are so many mummy articles about it's a lovely change
Jason Faith from Grand Rapids MN on December 04, 2014:
ty, very interesting article
Robert Connor from Michigan on August 23, 2014:
Some good old first time dad advice-we like!
Erin Jade from South Australia on August 11, 2014:
I really enjoyed this article. It's a shame you learnt "the hard way" I fully support the comments about in laws putting their two cents in and the husbands coming to the wife's defence this is SO important.
I think its another reason that if you are planning a family to have a lot of these conversations before falling pregnancy if you can because once the hormones start rolling you can say a whole lot of things that you can't take back later. I was very fortunate to have a very involved partner from start to finish( apart from the fact he slept on a mattress on the floor halfway through my first labour after coming off night shift haha!)
Even the best preparation can still have new parents feeling overwhelmed so a big believer in knowledge is power :)
ANISH N R K from Kerala, India on May 12, 2014:
Psychological tips for tension free pregnancy:
1.Go for shopping for the expecting baby together, and enjoy the experience
2.Take your partner to talk to your friends who already have a healthy baby
3.Include your expecting baby in the family prayer
4.Believe in your partner and your doctor
5.Ensure good hydration throughout pregnancy
marty main on April 05, 2014:
my girl is my world so I will do any thing that helps her
Amie Butchko from Warwick, NY on March 04, 2014:
Really great hub - very inclusive of all you'll need to know. Enjoyed reading!
Susannah Birch (author) from Toowoomba, Australia on February 26, 2014:
Ashley, thanks! Glad it helped!
ashley on February 02, 2014:
just a quick thanks for all your help my best friend and I are both pregnant and have been looking for something like this to help out our partners in understanding what we are and will be going through. thx again.
healthtips7 from Singapore on July 03, 2012:
Nice stuff... It is so important to support your partner during pregnancy, because your partner tends be scared about making the wrong decision, so your support once again is very important!
Peter on October 27, 2010:
Hi. Great stuff. I just became a new dad 8 weeks ago and it's been a constant learning experience.
shanshane2 from Rochester, WA on April 27, 2010:
I have number 4 on the way and the pregnancies don't seem to get easier for my wife. Overall she has pretty easy pregnancies, but they are all different. This time she likes to sleep sideways in the bed, go figure. I think we need a new mattress! Good Hub!
Kara on April 23, 2010:
I got my partner to watch the "Being Dad" DVD. It's fantastic! At last there is a way of learning about pregnancy and birth that lets Dads-to-be look at it from their perspective. And in places it is really funny. Recommended for all dads-to-be who are mysteriously unable to pick up any books or attend classes.