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Your pregnancy and baby guide

Pregnancy, birth and beyond for dads and partners

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Supporting your pregnant partner

If you're the partner of someone who is pregnant, the closer the two of you are, the more you'll be able to share the experience of pregnancy and birth.

You can look at the information on different pregnancy weeks to see what happens to a pregnant person and the unborn baby throughout pregnancy.

The early weeks

In the early weeks (up to around 14 weeks) pregnancy can cause vomiting and morning sickness. Certain smells and tastes might make your partner feel nauseous, and she may want to sleep more.

Your partner might be irritable at times. After around 14 weeks, many people find that much of their energy returns.

The later weeks of pregnancy

Towards the end of pregnancy (around 27 to 40 weeks) the baby can feel very heavy. The tiredness and irritability of the early weeks may return, and your partner may start to feel worried or frightened about the birth.

If your partner is anxious, encourage them to talk about it to the midwife, to you or to family or friends.

Practical support

2 of the ways you can help your partner are:

  • cooking – in the early months the smell of food cooking can make some pregnant women feel sick
  • carrying heavy shopping – carrying can put a lot of strain on their back, so do the shopping yourself or together

Let your partner know you are willing to help in any way you can.

The basic health advice is just as important for you as it is for your partner:

  • eating well is much easier if you're doing it together – start picking up healthy food habits you'll want to pass on to your child, and make sure you know what foods to avoid in pregnancy
  • cigarette smoke is dangerous for babies, so if you're a smoker, get advice on how to stop smoking – if you continue to smoke, do not smoke near your partner
  • if your partner is worried about the pregnancy, offer to join them when they go to their antenatal appointment, or ask them about it when they get home
  • be there if your partner has a pregnancy ultrasound scan and see your baby on the screen – if extra tests are needed, your support is especially important

Screening tests in pregnancy

When your partner is offered blood tests in early pregnancy, you may be asked to have blood tests as well.

This is to check whether your baby is at risk of having an inherited or genetic condition, such as sickle cell anaemiathalassaemia or cystic fibrosis.

You'll also be asked about your family history and origin, because certain inherited conditions are more common depending on family history.

Find out more about screening tests in pregnancy, including screening for sickle cell and thalassaemia and screening for Down's, Edwards' and Patau's syndrome.

Antenatal classes and labour

Find out about antenatal classes for couples, or partners' evenings. The more you know about labour, the more you'll be able to help.

Most people stay with their partner during labour, but it's important that you're both happy about this.

Find out what happens in labour and what's involved in being a birth partner.

If you prefer not to be present, talk and listen to how your partner feels. A friend or relative could be a birth partner instead.

Talk about what you both expect in labour, and talk about the birth plan. Fill it in together so that you know what your partner wants and how you can help them achieve it.

Be supportive if your partner changes their mind during labour. Be flexible – the health of your partner and the baby is the most important thing, so birth plans sometimes have to change.

Your feelings

Just because your partner is the one carrying the baby does not mean their pregnancy has no impact on you. Whether the pregnancy has been planned for months or years, or is unexpected, you'll probably feel a range of emotions.

A baby means new responsibilities that you may not feel ready for, whatever your age. You and the mum-to-be may have mixed feelings about the pregnancy. It's normal for both of you to feel like this.

The first pregnancy will change your life and change can be frightening, even if it's something you've been looking forward to.

Money worries

Money problems may be a worry. You may face the loss of an income for a while, extra expenses for the baby and, if your partner returns to work, the cost of childcare.

You may be worrying that your home is not right or that you'll feel obliged to stay in a job you do not like.

It might help to look at what benefits you're entitled to and start planning ahead.

The Money Advice Service has information to help you manage your finances when you're having a baby.

Sex in pregnancy

It's normal for a woman's sex drive to change in pregnancy.

There's usually no medical reason to avoid sex during pregnancy, but bear in mind:

  • your partner's breasts may be very tender in the early weeks
  • do not have sex if there's any bleeding or pain
  • make sure your partner is comfortable – you may need to try out a few different positions as the pregnancy progresses

Find out more about sex in pregnancy. If you're not having sex, try to find other ways of being close, but do talk about it.

Some partners find it difficult to make love during pregnancy. If you feel uncomfortable about your partner's changing shape, talk about it but be sensitive to how your partner might feel.

Be prepared for the birth

This checklist for parents-to-be may be useful for the final weeks: 

  • make sure you can be contacted at all times
  • decide how you'll get to the hospital (if you have arranged a hospital birth)
  • if you're using your own car, make sure it works and has petrol, and do a trial run to see how long it takes to get from your house to the hospital
  • remember to pack a bag for yourself, including snacks

Seeing your baby for the first time

Watching your baby coming into the world can be the most incredible experience.

Many new parents experience very strong emotions; some cry. It can feel difficult to go home and rest after such an intense experience, so think through what your needs might be at this time.

You may want to tell someone about the birth before you can rest, but then sleep if you can. When the baby comes home (if the birth took place in hospital), you can expect sleepless nights for some time to come.

Bringing mum and baby home

You may find that relatives and friends are able to help in the early days so that your partner can rest and feed the baby. This is especially useful after a difficult birth.

It's a good idea to have a week or so off work if you can (find out about working and time off when having a baby).

In the first few weeks: 

  • you could look after the baby so that your partner can get a good rest each day
  • take over the housework, but do not feel you must keep the place spotless
  • try to use this time to get to know your baby – learn to change nappies and bathe your baby as well as cuddling and playing with them
  • if your baby is breastfed, you could bring your partner a snack and a drink while feeding; if bottle feeding, you could sterilise and make up the bottles and share the feeding
  • be considerate about sex – it may take weeks or months before your partner stops feeling sore, so think about discussing other ways of showing your love for each other until sex is comfortable

You can find out more about your partner's body after the birth, including stitches, soreness and bleeding.

How to help if your partner feels low

Some mothers become depressed or anxious and need a lot of extra support, both practical and emotional. Make sure you know how to spot the symptoms of postnatal depression and where to get help.

You may also get depressed. Having a child is a big life change and you may need support, too. Keep talking and listening to each other, and talk to friends.

If you feel you are depressed or anxious and need help, talk to a GP.

Find out about healthy diet in pregnancy, foods to avoid in pregnancy and antenatal care.

Page last reviewed: 04/10/2019
Next review due: 04/10/2022