One of the amazing things about us as humans is none of us are the same. Which also makes us tricky beasts to get things ‘right’ for. What one person wants, another will think ‘oh goodness no!’ So working out what you can do for your partner when they are pregnant can be complicated.
Whether you have a partner of a different or the same sex as yourself, whether you or they have or are transitioning and whatever gender you identify as, having a supportive partner through pregnancy is vital. While pregnancy is exciting, it can also be scary and if you have complications, downright terrifying. Your body is changing all the time, your hormones are, putting it frankly, constantly on the wonk and having someone with you who can empathise and support you in what you are going through can make all the difference.
While some partners will simulate labour using a shock machine (Google it; it is hilarious) or try living a day wearing a 10kg baby bump on their front, others may decide to support their partner by reading a book written for their situation or by having a good long chat with their partner about how they are feeling and what they can do to help.
This can be as simple as taking any existing children for a few hours a day to give their partner time to rest (take it from me, being pregnant with a toddler is exhausting) or something as small as a surprise foot rub in the evening. My husband, especially in this second pregnancy, often takes the time to give me a proud look and say ‘blimey love, you’re incredible doing this you know. Thanks for doing this for both of us.’ Frankly, it makes me feel like a bloody Goddess.
Being prepared to understand that things are going to change in the relationship is also important. Your partner might want no sex at all. They might want sex all of the time. Except in the second trimester when they don’t want sex.
They might feel terrible in the first trimester and need a lot of time to rest, pick up on the second trimester and then need more support again as they near their due date. They may be fine all the way through. They may be sick all the way through. This pregnancy may be totally different to their last pregnancy. It will depend on your partner and their needs. The partner’s job is to listen, reassure and if needed, be prepared to do a Tesco dash at 10.30pm for Haribo (lock down depending – stay alert people!).
Ask most people in the middle of pregnancy what is the WORST thing you could say or do….well, the list is fairly long but includes ‘You were the one who wanted this baby’, ‘You’re pregnant, not ill’, ‘You were fine last time you did this’, ‘You’re getting massive’, ‘I don’t think you should eat/drink that’ (unless it’s a lot of booze, drugs or something not recommended in pregnancy of course). Not giving them time to rest, rant, understanding why they might want you to attend birth classes or appointments with them or listen are also up there with things not to do. Remember, a supported pregnant person may feel happier and more relaxed and calm.
For those people birthing and parenting singly have a think about where you can find support during labour and postnatally. Be prepared with a list of support/parent groups near you, consider a doula for birth or postnatally (there is an access fund for this). Consider carefully who could support you in birth and in the early days, someone who will help you in the right ways. It could be a friend, parent, sibling; it’s your choice entirely.
Here are a few tips from the CS Mott Children’s Hospital website who I think got it in a nutshell:
What can a partner do during pregnancy?
If this is your first child, learn as much about pregnancy as you can. Read about what to expect during each trimester. For example, your partner may be very tired during the first and third trimesters. During the second trimester, they may have more energy.
Whether you’re new to parenthood or have been through this before:
- Go with them to doctor visits.
- Help make decisions about prenatal tests, such as those for birth defects.
- Go to childbirth classes.
You also can support your partner in other ways:
- Encourage and reassure them.
- Ask them what they needs from you.
- Show affection. Hold hands and give hugs.
- Help them make changes to her lifestyle. You may decide to give up alcohol and coffee—or cut back—since they can’t drink alcohol and may cut back on caffeine. This can be a good time to make some lifestyle changes that you’ve been thinking about.
- Try to eat healthy foods, which can help them eat well.
- Encourage them to take breaks and naps. Hormones during pregnancy can change a person’s energy level and need for sleep.
- Talk to your partner about how they are feeling, and be open to changes in how you express intimacy.
- Take walks together. It gives you exercise and time to talk.
- Help with cleaning and cooking. This is especially important when your pregnant partner is most tired or if certain cooking smells make them feel sick to their stomach.
- If you smoke, don’t do it around them. Start a quit program if you can, or cut down on how much you smoke.
- Back and foot massages can help ease stress and aches as the pregnancy goes on.
After the baby arrives
- Help feed, change, and bathe your baby. You can bring the baby to your nursing partner or do bottle-feedings, depending on your choice for feeding the baby. It creates a bond with you and the baby and gives your partner time to sleep or take a walk.
- If you have other children, you may want to handle more of their care in the early weeks and months after the baby arrives.
- Give the new mum/parent breaks so they can exercise, rest or do other activities.
We have put together a short list of useful resources you may find helpful for parents to be of all walks of life below, and of course, have our most recent ‘Dad Chat film’ (we are working on other videos for all types of parent to be as inclusive as possible!) that you can watch if you want to get a feel for how three real life dad’s felt with their partner’s first (and for two of them their second) pregnancies.
Websites and blogs:
The Official NHS website on Partners and pregnancy: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/dad-to-be-pregnant-partner/ –
A helpful article on the psychological effect of being a supportive partner in pregnancy: https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201211/partners-pregnant-women-impact-newborns-health
A lovely blog by two mums raising their children together: https://whichoneismummy.wordpress.com/
Trystan Reese shares his experience carrying his son, Leo, and offers advice for treating trans parents with respect: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a19675157/transgender-pregnancy/
An article looking at improving language around gender and pregnancy: https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/pregnancy-health/trans-and-nonbinary-people-can-be-pregnant-too/
5 ways to support transgender men and non-binary people during pregnancy: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.insider.com/how-to-support-trans-men-non-binary-going-through-pregnancy-2019-11%3famp
Man vs. Baby: The Chaos and Comedy of Real-Life Parenting https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1501187414/ref=cm_sw_r_wa_apa_i_XYpYEbDYCD76Y
Pregnancy for Men: The whole nine months (PAPERBACK) https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/190541062X/ref=cm_sw_r_wa_apa_i_C0pYEbYC4P3KV