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How can fathers help their partners over the different stages of pregnancy?

6 min read
pregnancy

We share about the different stages of pregnancy and what fathers can do to support their partners before the baby arrives.

Pregnancy can still feel like it is all about the mother, and how she is coping over the 40 or so months. However, it is important for soon-to-be fathers to be involved in the process and to be part of a life-changing experience.

To many fathers, being actively involved in sharing the marriage, and partnership has become a norm.  However, being actively involved in pregnancy with your partner might seem more challenging than after your baby is born.

That does not have to be the case. Supporting your partner emotionally through pregnancy can be one of the most satisfying and fulfilling experiences fathers can go through, that is also very important for your partner. That is a double score for us fathers!

pregnancy

What are the different stages of pregnancy?

A pregnancy is divided into three trimesters, with each trimester lasting between 12 – 13 weeks. Over each trimester, both the mother and the baby (at this point still a fetus) changes and develops in response to the process and each other.

The first stage is conception and implantation. A women releases a mature egg as part of the ovulation process. The egg will travel towards the uterus. During this time, roughly 12 – 24 hours, if it meets and combines with a sperm, they will combine into a cell. This process is conception (or fertilisation). Post-conception, the fertilised egg will move and implant itself into the uterus wall. It is now called an embryo. Once implanted, the embryo will continue to grow, and become a fetus and placenta. The latter will provide hormones, nutrients and oxygen to the fetus throughout the pregnancy.

The next stage is the first trimester. During this stage, there will be lots of changes the mother is experiencing from a physical, mental and emotion perspective. Hormones will cause changes both physically as well as emotionally. For example, she might experience morning sickness (a cycle of nausea and vomiting), or more tired, a slower digestive system that might result in bloating and mood swings.

Within the first three months, the baby will develop a heart, lungs, as well as form most of the major organs and also bones and muscles.

During the second trimester, mothers get used to the hormonal changes and might find their energy levels returning, and sleeping becomes easier. There will be a visible ‘baby bump’ and some mothers might experience back pain as the mother gains pregnancy weight.

Between weeks 16 – 20, mothers might feel the baby kicking, squirming or moving.

Within these three months, the baby will grow even more and start developing skin, eyelashes, eyebrows and fingernails. This period is also when the baby can start to swallow and hear. Hair starts to grow, the brain is developing and the eyes might open.

The third (and last) trimester sees the uterus enlarging and pushing against the mother’s diaphragm and this might result in shortness of breath because the lungs have less space to expand. There might be water retention in the ankles, feet, hands and face. There will be more pressure on the bladder leading to the urge to urinate more frequently. She might experience backaches and pain in the pelvis as the body gets ready for delivery. As it becomes harder to find comfort in bed – whether lying flat, or on the side – mothers might feel more tired.

During these three months, the baby is stretching and kicking, and can respond to sound (like music!). Different parts of the brain is forming and developing, and the eyes can open and close. The baby usually automatically turns and moves into a head-down position to get ready for delivery.

How can fathers prepare and help with the process?

All fathers have a similar internal monologue when they first discover that their partner is pregnant. This is typically called the ‘time to step up’ conversation with yourself. During this monologue, it is important to agree that there is no perfect time, that you can learn and become the father you want to be, and now more than ever, your partner will want and need you to be there for her.

Here are some steps to consider that might help during the pregnancy process.

Have a heart-to-heart talk about your hopes and your worries.

It is normal to feel both happy and concerned about your child joining the family. Talk about the hopes you have, and about the type of father you hope to be. Share the worries you have, whether it is about finances or whether there is adequate space in the house. Talk about health, and the whether there are any pre-existing conditions to be concerned about. These you can share with the gynaecologist. Open up about the new roles of being parents, and the responsibilities parenthood will bring.

If you are not certain together, reach out to other fathers for help and support. This is a sign of strength when asking for help in order to do the right thing for your partner and child.

Ask HR about your paternity and family benefits

Most employers offer a range of family and paternal benefits. This can be time-off, money or discounts with partners. If you are not sure, reach out to your HR partner and ask. Singapore also provides a series of parental benefits that the company will co-execute on such as paternity leave and shared parental leave.

Consider adopting a healthier lifestyle together

There are a few life-changing experiences with having a child being one of the top few. Support your partner and baby’s health by eating well, and exercising or being active together. Check with the gynaecologist first before starting on any new fitness or workout routine.

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Start preparing yourself emotionally

Fathers usually ignore their emotions, or defer to the partner’s emotional needs. Becoming a father is as much your journey as it is about parenthood. Fathers have to also be emotionally ready for the baby. You have about nine months to reach out for support from other fathers, read up about what to expect with babies and toddlers, join your partner on visits to the doctor, pick names, and so many other activities that will mentally signal to you that you are ready for your baby.

Think about the parenting roles and division of labour in the household

Many couples operate on an equality basis in partnerships. However, adding a baby to the household has a way of skewing the original arrangement. Find some time during pregnancy to discuss with your partner about how things will change, and what are the new things she hopes you can take on, and how you can meet expectations. Share with her your ideas about how you will scope out the fatherhood responsibilities and agree on these areas.

Planning for birth

Work on a birth plan with your partner. Consider which gynaecologist to work with, which hospital to deliver in, the type of delivery the mother prefers, whether family will or can be present, the role you will play in the delivery room and so many more details. Your partner might have strong opinions about many of them, and your role as a soon-to-be father is to be as involved as you can in as many of them that you can be. Attending birth classes together might help you anticipate what will happen, and also give you an opportunity to ask a trained person all the different questions you might have.

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Be proactive and present throughout the pregnancy

It might also be the first time your partner is pregnant and on the journey towards becoming a mother.

Learn to be present, or more visible throughout the many ups and downs she will feel. Be there when she’s anxious or worried about the baby, or when she’s dreaming about your child’s future. Be there when she wants someone to talk to about all the different feelings, and also to help buy all the foods she might crave.

Be proactive in helping take on more roles around the home whether that’s to help clean up, or to prepare the baby’s room or cot. Volunteer to do things that make your partner happy, and err on the side of asking and not wait to be told. Mood swings might make it challenging to relate to each other, and it might help you to remind yourself that pregnancy and parenthood is a team effort. No one needs to win, except your child and your family.


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