Pregnancy is confusing. First, there is morning sickness, for some, but not for others. Then there are cravings. Weird, middle-of-the-night desires that you have to dash out for before she cries or gets mad or makes those adorable puppy-dog eyes that you fell in love with. Then there are the other cravings that no one told you about and can also keep you up late into the night.
And all during these trimesters (which are like semesters except there are three!), the mom-to-be is reading online forums, and watching every YouTube birthing video imaginable so she can prepare for whatever comes next. But what about you? What are you doing to prepare, and what do you know about pregnancy?
Dads, if you’re feeling overwhelmed and wondering where you fit in with the pregnancy (besides midnight snack runs), this pregnancy guide for men is for you.
Things men need to know about pregnancy
First, the things your partner eats and does is important. Weight gain is expected, and the average gain is 25 to 35 pounds. This changes if your partner is underweight or overweight. The amount she gains is between her and her doctor, but you can play a role in that by participating in meal planning and prep. The vitamins and minerals she consumes during this time are important, so help her find healthy options. Don’t put the burden of food planning solely on her shoulders. Now is the time to satisfy more than just the pickle-in-peanut-butter cravings.
If something is awry
If something feels off or your partner mentions not feeling well, listen to her. Being pregnant is terrifying. Every ache, spot of blood, cramp, or flutter in the belly is alarming. She’s working hard on creating a life, and that life is fragile. When she’s concerned about something happening with her body, don’t shrug it off. Try not to patronize her. Listen to what she is saying. Check the pregnancy resources she has. Then encourage her to call her doctor or go see someone. She will be scared. She will think she is imagining things or making a bigger deal out of it than necessary. And she may be right. But the absolute best thing you can do for your partner when she is concerned is to offer her peace of mind by encouraging her to reach out for answers.
Here are some basics that she’s already read about, but you need to know too.
- Pregnant women should have less than 200 mg of caffeine per day. That’s one cup of coffee or tea.
- Here’s a list of foods she should steer clear of:
- Uncooked or smoked seafood, rare or undercooked beef or poultry and raw shellfish
- Deli meat
- Fish with high levels of mercury like shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish, and tuna.
- Raw eggs and homemade Caesar dressings, mayonnaise, homemade ice cream or custards, and Hollandaise sauces
- Raw cheese such as brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Feta, Gorgonzola, and Mexican style cheeses that include queso blanco and queso fresco (unless they clearly state that they are made from pasteurized milk)
- Unpasteurized milk
- Unwashed vegetables and fruits
- Make a list of medications and vitamins she is taking, when she takes them and what dosage she needs. Kindly check in to make sure she’s taken them each day because pregnancy can make her forgetful (do not tell her that pregnancy can make her forgetful).
- She can lift as much as her doctor says she can lift. If you are concerned, listen at the doctor’s appointments, ask her if she needs help and then respect what she and the doctor agree are her limits. At the beginning of her pregnancy, she will mostly be allowed to continue lifting whatever she was used to. By late pregnancy that is reduced to 20 to 25 percent of what she could lift prior to the baby.
- Sometimes she’ll want to cry. Sometimes she’ll want to go for a walk. Sometimes she’ll want to throw her phone across the room, and sometimes she’ll want the cuddles to go on for the next 48 hours. But sometimes she won’t want you to touch her. Her mood will be swinging like a great pendulum on an old grandfather clock. Just ride the wave. And whatever you do, don’t tell her she’s moody.
Things your partner might feel or need during pregnancy
Pregnant women are great at knowing what they want until they don’t. Pre-empting their needs and feelings won’t only win you points during the pregnancy, but it will enhance your intimacy with your partner. Here are some things she may feel or need while she’s pregnant:
- You at her doctor’s appointments with a pad of paper and a pen taking notes and helping her remember all the questions she had.
- You to help with planning and preparation, even if it is just sitting there and talking to her while she does all the work herself (because a lot of times she will want to do it herself).
- Support when she’s tired—whether that’s carrying things, holding her while she rests, doing the dishes or cooking dinner.
- Loads of pillows. Her body will be in pain. If you can surround her with pillows or get her a body pillow, you will be her hero.
- Massages are essential to her comfort. Give her the rub down to help her while she carries the baby.
- Overwhelmed by the preparation needing done before the delivery (cleaning house, scrubbing the floors, sanitizing the doorknobs and walls and doors and surfaces, packing for the hospital stay, etc.).
- She may feel some foods are absolutely disgusting. In fact, they could make her physically sick. If she is repulsed, don’t eat it.
- Your partner may feel concern for the safety of the baby. This is normal. If it becomes too much, or you worry about her mental health, talk to the doctor about it. Remember, your questions at the appointments are as valid as hers are.
- She may feel like the house is too dirty, no matter how clean it is. You can help with the nesting phase too. Grab a toothbrush and scrub that grout your child will never touch. Or make a list with her of everything she sees that needs done and make a game of completing the list.
Tips for the birthing room
The birthing room is the scariest part of pregnancy. There are wires and tubes and blood and liquid and maybe a needle going in her spine or in her arm and bouncing balls and birthing positions and so many things to remember. Here are a few tips for when you’re in the trenches during her heroic moment:
- Know your birthing plan. She may want a quiet supporter or a drill sergeant coach, and whether she needs those things can also depend on the environment and the anesthesia she takes. Some births are calm, some are loud. Talk to her about her preferences beforehand, so you are able to give her what she wants.
- Do not skip out on the prenatal birth classes. Contrary to popular belief, you will not immediately forget everything you learned in the birthing classes when things get intense during delivery. The classes can help you better understand what to expect and how to help her, so go to them.
- Bring a comforting item from home. Does she have a teddy stuffed away from her childhood? Or a pillow or blanket she’s always had? As she faces the battle, offering her this piece of comfort can give her courage and remind her you are there as her partner and friend.
- If she is being induced and cannot eat, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. In fact, she’ll need you on your game, so starving yourself is a bad idea. But be respectful. Whether you order in or eat from the cafeteria, leave the room to do it. Then brush your teeth afterward so she doesn’t get a whiff of it.
Remember, pregnancy brains are fickle. Anything in this guide may be the complete opposite (for example, she may want you to eat in the room so she can smell it and have you near), so the most important thing to do during pregnancy is communicate. If you can hone the communication skill, it will prepare you much better for what’s to come—a full-blown kid running around wanting to talk to Dada.
Dad’s any questions? Mom’s anything to add? Do so in the comments below.