Supporting your partner during her pregnancy
Supporting your partner through her pregnancy is a very important job. Pregnancy and childbirth can be exhausting both physically and emotionally, so helping her in any way you can will benefit her, your relationship and ultimately your baby.
For partners, finding out you’re going to be a parent can be a wonderful experience — but for some it’s terrifying. If the pregnancy is a surprise, partners often feel numb or in shock at first. This is normal.
It's usually best not to announce the pregnancy to other people until the end of the first trimester. You can use the time to get used to the idea of being a parent and thinking about how you will manage the changes a new baby will bring.
It's a good idea to be as involved as you can throughout the pregnancy — for example by going to doctor's appointments with your partner or looking at baby equipment together. Talking about your feelings will help you both deal with the emotions a pregnancy can bring.
Your partner may experience symptoms like mood swings and morning sickness. Try not to take it personally. You can help her by encouraging her to eat small amounts often. If she is vomiting very often or you are worried about her, contact your doctor.
It's normally fine to have sex during pregnancy, as long as both you and your partner feel like it. It might feel different, but it won't harm the baby. If your partner is bleeding or there are other problems, you might be advised not to have sex. You can support her by being patient and finding other ways to be intimate, such as kissing, cuddling and massage.
The second trimester
As the pregnancy progresses, the morning sickness should ease and the pregnancy will become more obvious.
The second trimester is the time to start thinking seriously about finances, your relationship, wills and life insurance. Communicating openly and honestly with your partner will help create the positive relationship you will need as parents.
You can support your partner at this time by helping her to have a healthy pregnancy, including by eating healthily, doing physical activity, cutting back on alcohol and quitting smoking.
Your partner's mood changes will probably settle now. If you notice either you or your partner are feeling very stressed or emotional for more than 2 weeks, and it's getting in the way of your day to day life, it is a good idea to speak to your doctor or midwife.
Later in the pregnancy
The third trimester is often when pregnancy gets real for partners. Your partner will start going for a lot more check-ups. If you can go with her, you will be able to hear your baby's heartbeat and understand more about what's going to happen during the birth. You can also attend antenatal classes, do a tour of where the baby will be born, and organise for time off work.
Late pregnancy can be very uncomfortable for you partner. She may wake up often during the night, need to go to the toilet more, and find sex uncomfortable. You can help her by massaging her, helping her to get comfortable, and being patient when she starts cleaning the house ready for the new baby.
Your baby will be able to hear by now, so you can talk or sing to them. This will help you bond with the baby even before they are born.
The better prepared you are, the easier you will find the birth. You can talk to other partners who have been through it, watch videos, read a lot and attend antenatal classes with your partner. It's a good idea to discuss the birth plan together so you understand what she wants — although remember that this needs to be flexible.
You can prepare by making a plan for when she goes into labour and researching the best way to get to the hospital. When the time is near, make sure you pack everything you need as the labour can last a long time.
During the birth, your role as a birth support partner is to give emotional and physical support and encouragement. You can help your partner by reminding her to breathe slowly, massaging her, and helping her to get more comfortable. Don't be surprised if she changes her mind a lot!
You may need to deal with the midwives and doctors on your partner's behalf. Try to keep calm and breathe deeply and steadily if it all becomes overwhelming. If you feel faint, put your head between your knees and breathe slowly.
You may be asked to cut the umbilical cord when the baby is born. You can bond with your baby straight away by giving them a cuddle next to your skin.
Your feelings during the pregnancy
Some partners feel as though they have been left out during the pregnancy. She may be absorbed in the pregnancy, and all the attention is on her. You may feel rejected if you’re not included in her medical appointments, and you may have the feeling that she is more interested in the baby than you.
Partners can also experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and early parenthood. You are more at risk if you’ve had these conditions before, if you partner has depression or anxiety, if it’s a difficult birth, if you have relationship problems or if you have your own health problems.
Financial stress, changes to your work/life balance, the reality of parenting and the amount of support available to you can all make it more difficult to cope during the pregnancy and afterwards.
It’s important to look after yourself so you can look after your family. That means taking care of your own physical and mental health, talking to others in a similar situation and concentrating on your relationship. Talking openly and honestly with your partner, family or friends can make a big difference. Speak up if you’re feeling upset, before the feelings build up.
You can also try exercising, deep breathing, muscle relaxation or yoga to ease stress and tension. If you feel that you’re getting angry, jealous or violent, speak to your doctor or call Mensline on 1300 78 99 78.
You can find more information on Beyond Blue’s Healthy Families website. If you start thinking they would be better off without you, or you are thinking about suicide, call an ambulance on triple zero (000) or go to the emergency department.
Where to go for help and advice
Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse.
Raising Children has videos, information and more on its website Dads Guide to Pregnancy.
Mensline offers support and counselling services on 1300 78 99 78.
Beyond Blue offer support and advice for new dads on 1300 22 4636. You can download its book, Emotional health and wellbeing: A guide for new dads, partners and other carers.
Lifeline offers telephone support to anyone in crisis on 13 11 14.
Rainbow Families and Gay Dads Australia have resources for sexually and gender-diverse families.
QLife offers anonymous peer support and referral for the sexually and gender-diverse community — call 1800 184 527 or access their webchat from 3pm to midnight every day.
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Last reviewed: November 2020