Expecting fathers go through a very unique experience during pregnancy and birth, and while this can be a very exciting time it is important to make sure he is prepared for the challenges to come. This week Cara Terreri from Lamaze’s Giving Birth With Confidence blog shares her favorite tips for dads-to-be.
When a woman is pregnant, most of the outside world’s attention is on the mother-to-be. On one hand, this makes sense: it is the mother who bears the first-hand, physical experience of pregnancy and birth, and the intrinsic connection to a child who was once part of her body.
But what about the father (partner)? Fathers too, go through an experience during pregnancy and birth. First-time dads in particular must come to terms with a transition in family roles and responsibility, and deal with their own feelings of fear, excitement and anxiety. Yet, when a couple is expecting, all of the fuss and concern centers on mom: “How are you feeling? Are you sleeping well? What’s your birth plan?” Dad is more likely to hear nothing — unless it relates to mom.
Women, listen up: Dads need preparation, understanding and communication during pregnancy too! Women tend to gather and process information about pregnancy through their care providers, other women, books and Internet articles. Men however, don’t always attend prenatal appointments, and are less likely to pour over the literature or spark up a conversation about pregnancy with their peers. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested or don’t need support. And here’s the secret: the more prepared and informed dad is, the better equipped he will be to support and encourage you during pregnancy and birth.
The following are simple, but key, steps you can take to involve, support and prepare your partner, helping to improve the experience for both of you.
Attend prenatal appointments together. It may not be practical to see your care provider together every time, but make it a point to attend a handful of appointments as a couple. This allows dad to understand more about your prenatal care, experience exciting things like hearing baby’s heartbeat, and pose his own questions to your care provider.
Make childbirth classes mandatory. Childbirth education classes are designed for moms and dads. For dads who don’t always read up on birth (and for moms who read too much), an in-person, interactive class that teaches the ins and outs of birth, including coping techniques and strategies, is invaluable. Lamaze class educators, for example, are trained to engage with fathers and partners through targeted questions and hands-on practice.
Create your birth plan together. Wouldn’t it be great to have your own personal advocate to make sure labor and birth is as healthy and safe as possible? You can! Creating a birth plan with your significant other ensures that both of you are on the same page during the big day. If dad knows ahead of time that you wish to remain mobile in labor or avoid continuous monitoring, for example, he will be better prepared to support you and speak to your care providers if necessary. For ideas on what to include in your birth plan, check out the Six Lamaze Healthy Birth Practices.
Check in with dad. Keep the lines of communication open! If you don’t have a regular date night, make it a new habit that continues after birth and throughout parenthood. When you make the time to connect with each other, be sure to ask about his thoughts regarding pregnancy and birth in addition to expressing your own. Ask open-ended questions like, “Tell me what you think about our birth plan.” or “How do you feel about our care provider?” or “What worries you the most about birth?”
For more insight on preparing and understanding fathers during the childbearing time, check out the Giving Birth with Confidence series, “Focus on Fathers.”
Cara Terreri is the site administrator for Giving Birth with Confidence, the Lamaze online community for expectant moms, and has worked with Lamaze for the last six years. Giving Birth with Confidence is written for and by real women (and men) and offers a meeting ground to share stories, find answers and provide support during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting. In her free time (every last bit), she is mom to two active little boys. Through blogging and advocacy, Cara enjoys helping women discover their power and ability in birth.
What challenges did you experience as a couple? Did you feel supported?