Your partner says they are pregnant, but you don’t see the changes right away. Within a few weeks their nausea and fatigue are followed by what you might perceive as weight gain, but really it’s their pregnancy. And what about the baby? Many partners say that the baby does not feel “real” to them until the baby is born.
Partners often find that pregnancy creates stress in their relationship. One of you is thinking of the baby and feeling pregnant every moment of the day. After the announcement phase of the pregnancy, life for you may turn back to work as usual, and this difference in experience can make communication awkward. The reality is that you each of you have a different experience of the pregnancy.
Pregnant and non-pregnant partners may experience emotional changes in pregnancy. You may be anxious about your partner’s health during pregnancy. You may have tension in your relationship now that they are pregnant. Some families or individuals seek counselling or support to deal with these changes.
It is very normal for a person who is pregnant to have mood swings during pregnancy. Some of these feelings are caused by normal physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy. Other feelings are a result of changes that pregnancy and impending parenthood bring to your life and your relationships.
If your partner has long periods of sadness and crying, poor sleep or inability to eat, they may have depression. Depression can occur during pregnancy just as at any other time of life. Talk to your partner and health care provider if you think this is the case. Along with rest and social support, some pregnant people need medications to help them with severe depression in pregnancy. Their physician will know of the medications that are safe for use in pregnancy.
The 24 hour telephone support at 811 (Health Link) can connect you with a nurse to ask questions and get help if you are wondering about depression in your partner or yourself.
Some people that are very close to the pregnant person may experience sympathetic symptoms such as nausea, weight gain, and changing emotions. You may be surprised if this happens to you, considering that it’s your partner who is pregnant! Research suggests that if you experience these types of symptoms, you’re likely very in tune with your partner’s pregnancy and ready to take on the role of parent
Being involved in the pregnancy
By staying connected to your partner and to the pregnancy, the baby will seem more real to you. This will also help ease your own adjustment to parenthood, and help others see you as a parent. Here are some ways you can take an active role:
- Feeling the baby move
- Hearing the baby’s heartbeat
- Seeing the baby on ultrasound
- Telling friends and family about the pregnancy
- Giving the baby a nickname
- Reading or singing to your baby before birth (babies can hear as early as week 20 of the pregnancy!)
- Attending doctor’s appointments with your partner and asking your own questions
- Attending prenatal classes
- Reading books and websites about pregnancy and parenting
- Thinking about the kind of parent you want to be
- Talking with your partner about the kind of parents you want to be
- Talking with other parents about parenthood
- Getting involved in daily household activiities.
Every healthy relationship, whether it is with your pregnant partner, your baby, your own parents, or your friends or your neighbours, begins with respect. This also applies to healthy sexual relationships. All parents-to-be go through changes during pregnancy that may have an effect on their emotions, sexuality, and overall relationship.
For information about relationships, sexuality and support, check out the Healthy Parents Healthy Children website.
Preparing for Parenthood
Parenthood starts in pregnancy, so it’s never too early to get involved. Participating as much as possible with the pregnancy helps because:
- Your transition to parenthood will be easier
- You will be less worried during the pregnancy
- It is easier for your pregnant partner to reduce risky behaviours (like smoking, drinking or using recreational drugs), follow through on regular prenatal care and attend prenatal classes
- Your partner is likely to have an easier labour and birth experience
Pregnant partners have identified partner involvement as the ways in their which their partners provides practical, emotional and informational support. They appreciate it when their partners:
- Understand their changing emotional needs and mood swings
- Shows interest in the baby’s development
- Talks about the baby and how you will adapt your lives
- Goes with them to prenatal visits and classes
- Take on additional household tasks
- Reassure them that she will be a good parent
- Provide for the family financially
- Reassure them of their love by accepting their changing body
- Understands that their desire for intimacy may vary
Some partners take on the ‘strong’ role to avoid upsetting their pregnant partner during the pregnancy. This means that you may not have given yourself permission to share negative feelings you may be experiencing.
Non-pregnant partners have shared that they felt:
- Ambivalent about the baby
- That the baby is not ‘real’ in the way that it is to their pregnant partner
- Worried and confused by changes in the relationship with their pregnant partner
- Sad, mourning the loss of the relationship they had, or changes in future life
- Distant from their partner, who may be more focused on the changes that pregnancy is bringing to them
Make time to talk about these issues with partners, friends, family members or a counselor or caregiver. Taking time to talk about what you are thinking and feeling can help you prepare for parenthood .
Family finances can also be a source of emotional stress during pregnancy. Make a plan about how your family will manage. You may be losing one source of income, or making decisions about who is in the best position to provide financially for the family. Find out about parental benefits you may be eligible for at work or through Service Canada.