Pregnancy is a life-changing experience. In most cases, it brings a lot of joy to the family. Of course, there is always anxiety and apprehension when it comes to pregnancy. So, as a family, as a society, we do our best to take care of the to-be-mom. In India, fortunately or unfortunately, when a woman becomes pregnant, she is surrounded by a support system, who take care of her and pamper her. The 9 months of importance and pampering she receives are probably equivalent to a lifetime of pampering. Anyway, long story short, “What happens to the to-be-dad?” Well, the flow is like this.
- Congratulate him and celebrate the joy with him
- Ask him, tell him, threaten him to take good care of his wife
- Tell him to work really hard because he has to become financially more stable to support his growing family
- Reprimand him because he is not being supportive enough to his wife
- Pretty much ignore him otherwise
Dads-to-be go through a million things when their partners are pregnant. To begin with, a woman becomes a mother the day she conceives, the day she sees the 2 pink lines on the pregnancy test. But for dads, it’s different. They cannot relate to being a dad till they hold the baby for the first time. They need to see a little baby, they need something tangible to become a dad. But it’s hard for the to-be-mom to understand and see that. So, let’s look at what happens to dads during the pregnancy.
First trimester changes for dads:
- Difficulty acknowledging pregnancy
- May gain weight and experience nausea as an empathetic response (This is called as Couvade syndrome and is very real. They may go through altered hormone levels and change in sleep patterns also)
- Difficulty seeing baby as real unless hearing heartbeat
- Mixed feelings about pregnancy, fear of sexual activity
- Concerns for baby’s well being
- Examination of feelings towards own parents
- Concerns about mood swings and fatigue
- Concerns about finances
Second trimester changes for dads:
- Confused feeling of closeness to baby, varying feelings about partner’s changing appearance
- Trying to get more involved in pregnancy
- Evaluating readiness and ability to be a parent
- Changes in sexual desire
- Increased interest in parenting styles
- Growing interest in the pregnancy
Third trimester changes for dads:
- Frustration about ability to ‘fix’ partner’s discomforts
- Longing for relationship to return to normal
- Anxiety over support role
- Anticipation of parenthood
- Eagerness for pregnancy to end
- Worried about parenthood
- Choosing names for baby
- Simultaneous feeling of anticipation, exhilaration and apprehension
It’s important for moms-to-be to understand and acknowledge the feelings that their husbands go through during pregnancy. Pregnancy is emotionally very challenging for men and the amount of responsibility that they shoulder during pregnancy is great. They feel frustrated at themselves, they are unable to understand why they cannot help their partner’s mood swings, their partner’s cravings and so on. There are ways in which moms -to-be and family members can ease the pregnancy journey for the father.
- Work with the dad on his finances and see how he can plan for the future. Most men are worried about financial well-being.
- The mom-to-be can sit and talk to the dads-to-be about pregnancy in general and how the dad feels and appreciate him for being wonderful and supportive. This can help him relax, release the tension and probably talk to his wife about how he feels.
- Invite, enroll and engage with expectant dads. This is something that the care provider needs to do. The doctors, nurses and hospital staff need to involve dads in all of the appointments, the scans, and patiently answer his questions. This will acknowledge the father as a parent as well as a support-person, and provide a pathway to welcoming, educating and informing him, identifying strengths and challenges associated with him
- Have the expectant couple join a childbirth program, a lamaze class or similar that will help dads-to-be be a part of the journey and work on the pregnancy step by step. This will help him plan the pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum better, rather than being overwhelmed when the child is born.
- Plan a diet and an exercise routine together as a couple. Staying fit and eating well during are the most key points during a pregnancy. The dad-to-be needs to be healthy and relaxed and doing a couple programme together benefits both of them.
- Most couples refrain from sexual activity in fear of harming the baby. The baby is well protected inside the amniotic sac. Most doctors give a thumbs up for sex, unless there is a strong medical reason not to. So, to help expectant dads deal better with the pregnancy, it is good to engage in sexual relations.
- On days the mom-to-be feels good and healthy, she can prepare a nice surprise meal for the dad with all his favorite foods to show her care and appreciation.
- Typically, in Indian households, women go to their parents’ house for their first pregnancy. Dads-to-be start feeling more anxious and distant during this period of time. So, the expectant couple can plan in such a way that they stay together as much as possible and maybe have the parents come stay with them during the pregnancy and childbirth. This makes it easier for both the mom-to-be and dad-to-be and eases very well into postpartum.
So, in conclusion, let’s all understand, help and support the dads-to-be during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum; because, believe me, it’s a huge deal not only for the mom-to-be, but for him as well.