Written by: Benjamin Smith | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: September 14th, 2020
Finding out that your wife or girlfriend is pregnant is a big deal. Whether you were hoping to get pregnant or not, you are going to become a parent. In addition to being one of life’s stepping stones, this exciting stage will also change your life as you knew it.
This article will discuss what you should know about pregnancy, including what will change, how you can help, and what is happening to your partner that is causing her hormones to ebb and flow.
What will change?
Pregnancy can be one of the most joyful and one of the most difficult physical challenges that one can face. After getting a positive test result, many future parents feel overwhelmed, excited, terrified, etc. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, be advised that a number of things will soon change in your life, with or without your consent.
Steve Hoyles, a British weightlifting coach and fitness blogger with Fitness Savvy, says, “Your partner is about to become the victim of changes she didn’t expect. She will be hormonally stressed, physically tired, and sick.” Though no two pregnancies are the same, the American Pregnancy Association claims that up to 70 percent of expectant mothers will get sick and experience nausea at some point during pregnancy. The reality of this data point is felt by women around the world every day who find themselves rushing to a toilet, garbage can, or even the side of the road when they are overcome by sickness.
As your partner may be struggling physically, mentally, or emotionally during this pregnancy, it is important to understand the role that you play. Liz Brown, Certified Sleep Coach and founder of SleepingLucid, suggests, “Partners are expected to help soothe and make the pregnancy easier for women, whether it’s by helping them move from time to time, assisting with their diet, or simply being their shoulder to cry on.”
Though it may not sound appealing, logical, or fair to you, your ability to successfully help your partner through this pregnancy is directly related to your willingness to continually adjust, being hard to offend, and never giving up. Michael Smit, Senior SEO Analyst and Owner of Blue Cabin SEO, suggests that the majority of your personal needs will be put on the back burner, though this can be frustrating, Smit feels that is something that you need to accept and celebrate as your partner will soon be devoting much of her “you” time to your child.
What should I know about pregnancy?
First and foremost, you need to realize that you simply don’t know what being pregnant is like. “This is not like being sick, overweight, exhausted,” says Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C and Director of the Baltimore Therapy Center. Though it has a little bit of all of those rolled in, you have never experienced another human growing inside of you.
Dr. Sashini, General Practitioner of medicine at DoctorOnCall, urges that you remember that pregnancy is hard. She says “Women sacrifice a lot during this period. Their bodies undergo a number of changes including weight gain/loss, skin health and appearance, and hair health. It is important to know these and appreciate them more.” The more that you know about pregnancy before it begins, the better you will be able to understand your partner and appreciate the mental, emotional, and physical struggles that she is experiencing.
What about pregnancy hormones?
If you have never been around a pregnant woman, you may have heard stories of the emotions that come with pregnancy. Though it may seem a bit dramatic at first, as you become more educated on what is happening in a woman’s body during pregnancy, these emotions will begin to make more sense. If you find that you are struggling to understand some of her emotions, Hoyles recommends that you read as much as you can about hormones during pregnancy. The more you read and listen to her, the better you will be able to understand her.
“During pregnancy, women experience rapid and sudden increases in the hormones estrogen and progesterone,” says Dr. Don Grant, MB, ChB, DRCOG, MRCGP, of The Independent Pharmacy. These changes are necessary as they help with the development of the fetus, formation of blood vessels, and circulation of vital nutrients around the body. If a woman is already tired, stressed, experiencing changes in metabolism, etc., her mood swings may be exacerbated. The best thing that you can do to help her through this is to be patient with her and help to ease her stress whenever possible.
Heads up: Though it is common for women to experience mood swings during pregnancy, it is not uncommon for these to continue postpartum and/or while breastfeeding. Jessica Small, Marriage and Family Therapist with Growing Self, warns that you be thoughtful in how you talk about these hormone changes and that whatever you do, you don’t blame any of her feelings on hormones.
What should I be doing for my partner?
Knowing what you can and should be doing to help and support your partner during pregnancy can be difficult. As you prepare to welcome the newest member of your family, Charlotte Edun, a Positive Birth Movement facilitator with The Good Birth Practice, urges you to consider the following: “Your job is to protect and serve. Right now, she is going to lead and she needs you to follow.”
Brown reminds fathers and partners that the simplest things become very hard to do for women that are pregnant. This could include sleeping, moving around, or controlling emotions. Remembering this as you look for ways to serve your partner will make your service much more meaningful and appreciated.
We've outlined some ways that you can serve your partner below:
Listening intently and acknowledge
If you find that you are driven by a “logic” mind, Smit suggests that you set it aside for the time being. When your partner wants to talk to you, listen. Though all of what she says may not be pertinent to your specific circumstance, it is very relevant to hers. You may notice over time that some things will continue to come up over and over again. These are likely challenges, topics, or issues that are important to her. Identifying these topics will help you to know how you can best help her feel heard.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid of repeating yourself. Your partner may seek answers to the same question or acknowledgement about the same things a number of times. Don’t remind her that you have already responded to this before; just respond again in the most loving way you can.
Get your hands dirty
Even if you work full time, go to the gym every day, and have other obligations, you need to remember that your partner is feeling hormonal and sick. If she feels unable to do much around the house, it is not an excuse to get you to help out. It simply means that she does not feel well and is in need of your help.
During pregnancy, you should plan to take on more of the household chores. It may feel burdensome, but don’t let it feel that way. Marcus Anwar, cofounder of OhMy, recommends being willing to be flexible with your gym time or other activities to make sure that you don’t leave the household chores for her. It may feel like you are sacrificing a lot, but remember, your partner is the one carrying your child. You can at least do this in return.
Bonus tip: Dr. Grant suggests that you keep things extra clean. Many women are extra sensitive to smells while pregnant. Air out rooms often and shower daily. Take the garbage out regularly. The cleaner your home is, the less likely the smells in it will add to her morning or evening sickness.
If you are unsure about what your partner needs, just ask her, suggests Small. Though it may seem easier to just assume what she may need from you, there is a lot to be said for being willing to ask her what she needs and then following through with her request.
Bonus tip: Say things like "How can I help?” says Mara Watts, M.S., M, Ed, and Therapist with Postpartum Support Virginia. Even though you may not know exactly what she is going through, you can still acknowledge and appreciate all that she is doing.
Have her back
Pregnancy can feel burdensome, and women may feel lonely and helpless. Shannon Serpette, Chief Editor of Mom Loves Best, counsels you to remind your partner from time to time that you are on her side and that you have her back. The more of your support that she feels, the more loved and cherished she will feel.
Bonus tip: One of the ways that you can show her that you are there for her is going to doctor visits with her. Jack Burke, Community Outreach Coordinator for Hims, suggests that this shows your commitment while solidifying your new relationship as parents. As a perk, you will also be able to see and hear your baby’s heart beating for the first time during an ultrasound/sonogram.
There is so much that will be going on around your home during pregnancy. Rick Musson, father of four with a fifth on the way and a consultant for LifeInsuranceTypes.com, recommends that you participate in as much of it as possible. Whether you are helping to clean out, paint, furnish, and decorate the nursery, or shopping for some of the “must-haves,” your partner will be grateful for your participation.
Bonus tip: Embrace change. During this entire process it is likely that your spouse or partner will change her mind many times. If you have painted the nursery green and she decides that it needs to be gray or blue, paint it again.
What happens after pregnancy?
Once you have made it through delivery and you are the proud parents of a brand new baby, you will begin to experience a number of additional changes in your life. Musson offers the following suggestions to help you in your preparation for this new life.
- Expect your one-on-one time with your spouse to decrease.
- Know that your ability to do things spontaneously will be more difficult.
- When traveling, plan to stop often for food, bathroom breaks, etc.
- Plan on traveling taking longer than you anticipate, ALWAYS.
- Either you, your partner, or a paid caregiver needs to care for you child, so budget accordingly.
- Normal activities may be replaced with new interests that are more kid-friendly.
- Be prepared for your life to be filled with an immense amount of joy.