What is happening to my Wife?
Pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks and is separated into three trimesters:
- Trimester 1 covers weeks 1-13. The hormones that help baby to grow can cause mood swings, which means she may be happy one minute and sad the next. She might also feel very tired often; that's because it's hard work to grow a life. About 75% of women experience some type of morning sickness, which can come at any time of the day, and even sometimes all day. She might crave some foods or hate some foods she usually likes.
- Trimester 2 covers weeks 14-27. Women often feel much better; less nausea, fewer mood swings, and "glowing" skin will make them feel good, although it is still normal for some women to have anxiety and mood swings. Her belly will begin to show and she will feel her baby move.
- Trimester 3 covers weeks 28-40. As baby grows your wife’s belly will get increasingly bigger and she might start to feel uncomfortable. Baby’s movements will feel intense and you might even see limbs pushing against the inside of your wife’s belly. She might have trouble sleeping, become dizzy and have trouble with her balance. She will need to get as much rest as possible. She might also have Braxton Hicks contractions, her body’s way of getting ready for birth.
Throughout your wife’s pregnancy, you play a very important role in ensuring her physical health and emotional stability, which is important for the optimal development of your baby. Pregnancy is joyful, but can also be stressful. It can deepen your relationship, but can also create new tensions due to concerns about parenting, money and your relationship. Here are some ways you can make it a better experience for both of you:
- Join her at prenatal care visits to provide emotional support. It will also give you the chance to ask questions and see your baby in any ultrasounds. See what prenatal health checks are required here.
- Get educated by browsing this website or going to a free Fathers session at our Beba-ks Center. These classes are taught by men, for men. Knowing what to expect and getting your questions answered will reduce your stress and give you ideas for rewarding ways to be involved.
- Get organized. Talk to your partner about what you both want for the baby. Decide where the baby will sleep, and make that part of your home colorful and welcoming for the baby. Go shopping for baby things.
- Help your wife stay healthy by encouraging her to eat well, exercise, not drink or smoke or take illegal and some prescription drugs. You should also quit smoking as secondhand smoke harms your unborn baby. Help lower her stress and give her rest by offering lots of emotional support, helping out with the housework or taking care of other children if you have them. Talking together about your hopes and plans for the baby can also help lower stress.
- Have sex if you and your partner want. See more about sex and pregnancy here.
- Support your partner's decision to breastfeed. Breast milk is the best food for your baby. It has everything that your baby needs to grow and be healthy. Find out about more about how you can support her here.
What Prenatal checks are needed?
Encourage your wife to visit the doctor as early as possible in her pregnancy as this will help to determine how many weeks pregnant she is, and to identify any possible complications. Go along with her for support and so you can ask questions. You might especially enjoy the ultrasound appointments, where you will get to see your baby on a computer screen and hear his heartbeat. In addition to the initial visit in the first trimester, the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of four prenatal visits around weeks 16, 24-28, 32, and36 for uncomplicated pregnancies. However, in many countries women go every month to the doctor. For more detail about prenatal health checks click here.
What are some danger signs?
If your wife has any of these signs, immediately seek medical attention as they may indicate a major threat to her and/or her unborn child:
- Severe and/or constant abdominal pain.
- Vaginal bleeding, especially bright red blood.
- Severe, uncontrolled vomiting that causes dehydration.
- Headache, dizziness, or double vision or blurred vision for 2-3 hours.
- Chills and / or high temperature (38ºC or more).
- Sudden and severe swelling of the face and the hands and feet, and/or unexplained weight gain.
- Unusually slow or no movement of your baby after the sixth month.
Girl or boy: who decides?
By the 18th week of pregnancy, you should be able to tell if you are having a boy or a girl. The father’s sperm determines the sex of the child depending on if it is carrying an X or Y chromosome. The mother’s egg already contains an X chromosome, therefore the sex of a baby is determined by the X or Y chromosome of the father’s sperm. Studies show that your likelihood of having a boy or girl is inherited, meaning if you (the father) have more brothers you are more likely to have sons, while if you have more sisters you are more likely to have daughters. There are lots of myths about things you can do to have a boy or girl; the position during sex (woman on top or lying on her side), the places you have sex (no sex in cupboards is not a magic boy-maker), the time you have sex (odd days or evenings), or the foods you or your wife eat (salty foods, shellfish, etc). But there is no medical proof these work.
What do we need to have ready for baby?
Here are some essentials you will want to have ready before the baby comes:
- Clothing – 6-8 all-in-ones, 6-8 vests or T-shirts, 2-4 hats, 1 heavy all-in-one suit or jacket (in winter), and 4-6 receiving blankets.
- Diapers - plan on using about 70 diapers a week.
- Sleeping – a crib or cot with a snug fitting mattress.
- Feeding – if your wife is breastfeeding then nothing, but if using formula you will need bibs, bottles, teats, bottle-brushes and way of sterilizing (this is vital).
- Bathing – baby bath and/or newborn bath support, soft washcloths and towels, and mild baby soap.
- Moving – car-seat if traveling by car. Not essential but handy are a baby carrier and stroller.
What you need to know about C-sections
It is not a good idea to have a C-section, unless there is a legitimate medical reason e.g. labor complications like breech baby, or prior C-section. This is because C-sections can cause problems for your baby and your wife, especially in future pregnancies. Each C-section your wife has increases her risk for some serious complications in future pregnancies, which is why experts recommend a vaginal delivery if you intend to have several children. Be wary of doctors who push for C-sections without giving legitimate medical reasons, since C-sections often cost more for patients than vaginal births, and can be more convenient for doctors as they can be scheduled during ‘office hours’.
Some people think C-sections will be easier, less painful and less complicated, so it’s important to separate the myths from the realities.
Myth 1: Greater convenience. Yes, it can help you better plan for family help and work leave, but did you or she know your wife will:
- Not be able to schedule a C-section before 39 weeks so you must be ready if baby decides to come before that.
- Have added difficulty of recovering from major surgery while caring for a newborn and any other children.
- Be in the hospital for longer (an average of three days instead of one or two).
- Have to limit physical activity for several weeks.
- Have pain from your incision that can make it uncomfortable to breastfeed.
- Are significantly more like to return to hospital with complications.
Myth 2: Avoid pain of labor and delivery. Yes your wife not might not feel much pain during the surgery, but did you or she know your wife will:
- Likely have a longer, tougher recovery than most women with vaginal deliveries.
- Have pain in the weeks after delivery and will need medication.
- Have difficulty in picking up, caring for or feeding your newborn and other older children who might need extra attention given their new sibling.
- Likely still feel pain or discomfort during the process and after when the drugs wear off or give side-effects.
Myth 3: Minimize complications. Yes, she can avoid complications that happen in a small percentage of vaginal deliveries, but did you or she know that there are:
- Physical risks for the mother, both immediate and long-term. Since it is major surgery there are risks of complications such as infection, bleeding and injury to other organs. Once she has a C-section, she is more likely in future pregnancies to have a C-section, and this causes problems in future pregnancies such a placenta previa. The vast majority of tears that occur in vaginal births either cause little discomfort or may require stitches but usually heal well a short time.
- Psychological risks for the mother including negative feelings about the birth, and less early contact with her baby, which can harm bonding and breastfeeding and increase her risk for post-partum depression.
- Risks for the baby as Babies born by C-section may have more breathing and other medical problems.
Myth 4: Preserve ‘tightness’. Research has proven that long-term sexual function remains the same and is not impacted by vaginal birth. Vaginal tightness returns within six months post-partum after at least the first birth. Your wife can do kegel exercises to tighten her vagina after a vaginal birth.
Let's talk about sex
- Most women can continue to have sex up until they go into labor. Sexual activity will not hurt the baby. The baby is kept safe by the amniotic sac, cervix, and uterine muscle. There is also a thick mucous plug that seals the cervix and protects the baby from infection.
- It is normal for sexual desire in women to decrease in the first trimester due to breast tenderness, fatigue nausea. Other women find the freedom of not having to worry about birth control or conceiving makes sex more enjoyable. By the second trimester, many women feel less nausea and experience heightened sexual desire.
- Fathers can support and/or raise their partner’s self-esteem about their changing body by offering positive comments.
- As the body changes during pregnancy, couples may need to try different sexual positions to find what is comfortable for her. Some women discover new or increased sexual pleasures during pregnancy because of such experimentation. “Spooning” while sitting up offers plenty of room for manual stimulation, side-lying allows for comfortable oral stimulation, and experimenting with pillows and support devices can help enhance and support a variety of positions and activities.
- Due to a sense of fullness, some women find vaginal penetration uncomfortable at some points during pregnancy and opt for manual, oral, or self- pleasuring sex instead
- Some cramping after making love is normal throughout pregnancy. The uterus contracts during orgasm and these contractions might be more noticeable during pregnancy as the uterus gets bigger.
- If the partner is at risk of experiencing pregnancy complications (vaginal bleeding, leakage of amniotic fluid, etc) the health provider will advise you to stop having sex. Be open with your health provider and ask what sexual activity can be done instead.
Excerpted from Chapter 6: Relationships, Sex, and Emotional Support in Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth © 2008 Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Common fears of expecting fathers
- Security – men are conditioned to protect their families, both physically and financially and it is normal for fathers to feel even more pressure during this time.
- Ability – many men worry they will ‘break’ their baby and that they don’t how to care for an infant. Don’t worry; learn the right moves here, and then practice.
- Mortality – being more aware of their own mortality and more afraid for the life of their wife and unborn baby is very normal.
- Relationship – men sometimes fear they will be ‘replaced’ by the baby, but that often disappears when you meet your baby. They also worry about their sex life before and after baby; we talk about that more on this page.
- Vagina – just the word can make men shut down. Men are generally not comfortable thinking or talking about the stuff involved with women’s bodies during and after pregnancy.
Why Fatherhood involvement matters
A review of 16 longitudinal studies that looked at the impact of father’s presence during childhood found that those children who had an involved father early on have, on average, fewer behavior problems, less criminal activity, better economic stability, better cognitive development, better performance in school and less stress during adulthood (Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, and Bremberg, 2008).
- Infants with involved fathers have better cognitive functions.
- Infants with involved fathers more frequently develop into children with high self-
esteem who can resolve conflicts without violence.
- Children with involved fathers generally have fewer behavior problems.
- Fathers involved in their children's lives are more satisfied and more likely to stay involved.
- Involved fathers have better health: they take fewer drugs, consume less alcohol, live longer, and feel mentally and physically healthier.
- Some studies show that fathers involved in caregiving have more satisfying relationships with their partners, feel more connected to their families and report better sex lives with their partner.
- Involved fathers contribute to reducing maternal stress during pregnancy.
- Mothers who are accompanied during prenatal visits usually attend more of them,
compared to mothers who are not accompanied.
Source: Promundo, CulturaSalud, and REDMAS (2013). Program P – A Manual for Engaging Men in Father- hood, Caregiving, Maternal and Child Health. Promundo: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Washington, D.C. USA.