How to Help Your Partner During (and After) Pregnancy: A List of Do’s and Don’ts for Dads
I hated smells when I was pregnant.
As I write this post, my husband is reminding of my 9-month ban of sardines anywhere in a 5 block radius of our house. He also reminded me of a time when I made him go upstairs to our mortgage paying neighbor’s apartment and tell THEM not to fry anything else in THEIR KITCHEN. That nose was sensitive. He couldn’t even utter the words Truffle Oil without the threat of bodily harm (he is a chef).
As an OB, I see many couples expecting babies. The mothers ask most of the questions and get most of the answers.
This one is for the fellas.
During an initial prenatal visit, a dad asked me how he could help his pregnant wife in the first trimester. I yelled, “NOTHING!” But I was just kidding. There are plenty of things for the dads-to-be to do during the pregnancy and delivery. Let this OB break it down so that you can shine during the gestation and delivery of your child. After that, you’re on your own.
First Trimester (Weeks 4 – 12-ish):
- Let her sleep and feed her whatever sounds good as long as it isn’t too unhealthy.
- In early or mid-pregnancy, your sexual thunder ain’t gonna hurt that baby. Mom may be a little more sensitive though. This pearl, by the way, was a quote from one of my favorite dads in my practice. He gave me permission to share.
- More vaginal discharge is normal, usually. If it doesn’t itch or have a foul odor, I wouldn’t worry. Recommend that she ask her doctor about it if she’s concerned.
- Google, mom groups, and (specifically) chat rooms are not good for her. She may think they are, that they will prevent her from having some untoward fate. They will just encourage paranoia about experiencing every red herring that could possibly happen because those are the majority of the stories you see posted on the internet. People with normal pregnancies generally don’t post, but they have a substantially greater piece of the pie. Mmm, pie. Don’t stress. Remind yourself everything will be fine, as often as you remind her that everything will be fine.
- Regarding her breasts: Look, don’t touch, or touch carefully. Her mountains, or in my case, hills, will be a little or very sensitive. Oh and her breasts will likely deflate later and her nipples will change, but that is life. Your baby is worth it.
Second Trimester (Weeks 12-ish – 28):
- Recommend that she keep a list of questions for the doctor, or keep it for her. Pregnant ladies forget. Don’t say that though. She may not appreciate hearing you say that she is getting more forgetful, but pregnancy brain is real.
- Rub anything she asks you too, or pay someone else too. Get your minds out of the gutter. I’m talking about a massage. Heads up though, a lot of prenatal massage places want a doctor’s note for safety clearance before they will do the massage. A little mother-baby safety mixed with C.Y.A. I’m sure. Another one of my favorite dads surprised his wife with a massage and got a note from me in the sly a couple of visits prior.
- Be present at as many appointments as you can – get your questions answered and be present for scheduled or impromptu ultrasounds. If schedules prohibit this, ask her to record the heartbeat for you. It is a wonderful sound and a gesture that you care.
- She may be a little mean sometimes. Give her a little pass. Be like a freshly waxed car and let some of her momentary lapses in basic human respect roll off of you like water. if she isn’t letting up, try peaceful communication tactics. Example: I am trying to help my doing x, is that helping? How can I help more? Ladies, try to be nice. He really is trying and is only concerned about you and baby well being. If he suggests healthy snacks, say thank you. Don’t smack them out of his hand.
- If she hasn’t thought of it, offer to book her a maternity photo shoot. Be ready to be in the pics. If she already booked one, go willingly. The late-second trimester is a good time for this because she is not yet so big that she gets uncomfortable and grumpy.
Third Trimester (Weeks 28-40 or delivery):
- Don’t be afraid to take classes with her, especially if it is your first baby. CPR, and what-to-expect type classes are usually pretty helpful. They are available for a small fee at my hospital. Can’t swipe that insurance card for those.
- Offer to go for a walk or to the gym. remind her it will help her get through the end of pregnancy and delivery to be strong and conditioned offer to buy her a support belt if she complains of pain in her back or pelvic pressure
- You are on car seat duty! You guys can buy it together – she will likely have strong opinions about which one you should have. It is very important to the both of you that it is installed properly and checked. This is one place to have your car seat checked for proper installation. There are others I am sure. I am told firehouses Do NOT check them anymore. My hospital has patient attendants who are certified but check with your hospital before you assume that.
- Back to sex, but now in reference to the term (no longer early) pregnancy. Sex is okay and can help encourage labor at the end of pregnancy. The exact mechanism is very technical, involving prostaglandins and cervical stimulation, but in the moment, none of that matters. Make her feel sexy and appreciated. Do not give her anything or let her give herself anything that will induce or start labor without talking to her doctor. Women get desperate at the end sometimes. Just because it is natural, doesn’t make it safe. Protect her and your baby by keeping her from being her own worst enemy.
- Try to do something for her that you don’t normally do – clean something that you wouldn’t normally tackle. Organize something that she has been meaning to get to – hang up her clothes she has been meaning to put on hangers. Buy something she has been saying she needs – a new shoe rack, perhaps. Am I the only one who has things I’ve “been meaning to do?”
Delivery Day – Early Labor and Hospital Labor:
- She won’t look up with a glimmer in her eyes and say “It’s Time” like in the movies. Labor starts slowly and contractions often take hours to days to get to 5 minutes apart. Feed her and hydrate her before it is time to go to the hospital and have her doctor’s number programmed into your phone to check in when you’ve reached that 5-minute mark or have any concerns.
- Tell her that she is amazing and you love her. Only say that last part if it’s true. This is not a time for false or pretend feelings just because you want to be involved with the baby. That’s my opinion.
- A “Push Present” is a thing. No matter how she delivers this baby, she carried it for almost a year and she felt every moment. Half of these little crumb snatchers don’t even look like their mom. Get her a charm, a massage, a clean house (it’s okay to hire someone), or any small token of love to let her know you appreciate what she allowed to happen to her body and mind for your collective human. As an adjunct, and this one may seem obvious: Do NOT complain about how long labor or pushing is taking. I had a husband once flop down in a chair next to his pushing wife, and fix his mouth to say the words: Uhh, I am so tired of pushing. He’s lucky his child didn’t lose her father in that moment. Don’t do it. Oh, and do not eat your delicious smelling food in her room or come back with the breath of onion and garlic when she is unable to eat.
- Don’t let her leave the house without pants or a skirt. Don’t leave your other child/children alone to take her to the hospital. I wouldn’t be giving this advice if these things hadn’t happened under my watch. Also, help her with her shoes because she likely can’t reach her feet easily.
- In the delivery room, there might be a lot of healthcare providers in the room, or there might not be. Take as many pictures as she will allow without being annoying. You can delete them later but you can’t go back to get them. Rules: no vagina or nipples in the picture, try to avoid flash photos because they are annoying (take advantage of the delivery bright lights), and ask the nurses about recording rules. My hospital doesn’t allow the actual delivery to be photographed or recorded. That’s okay though because it would break my No Vagina rule anyway.
Postpartum – You’re back home.
Protect her postpartum: Protect her from your parents, her parents, anyone with too much advice. Being helpful is great and their tips are welcome. At the end of the day, though, it’s your baby. Schedule visits to allow for at least 3-hour naps, and put that phone on silent periodically.
Also, since $150,000 baby gifts are not common place (#kanye #kim #beyonce) there are a few things that are good to have in the house when your baby comes home.
- Aquaphor and/or coconut oil for diaper changes. Coconut oil has some skin conditioning and antifungal properties that can help prevent diaper rash, and Aquaphor is the best skin protectant ever for extra sensitive skin. We don’t use baby powder anymore because of some health concerns so these are a good alternative.
- Vitamin D Drops. If she is breastfeeding, babies often need a little more vitamin D to keep their nutrition balanced. Even though breastmilk is liquid gold, that D is often a little lacking. Sunbathing isn’t a thing in infancy so your pediatrician will likely recommend supplementation. I liked Dr. Carlson’s brand because it was just one drop per day, rather than the multiple required by some other brands.
- Lots and lots of baby socks of different sizes from infant to 1 year. My kids ran through socks like diapers. You loose them, you drop them, you don’t put away laundry and can’t find the matches in the bag of clean clothes. Keep some spares on hand.
- Babyproofing: Socket protectors, cabinet locks, etc. You won’t need them right away, but there is no harm in being prepared.
I will end this post with another story my husband just reminded me of. First baby, January, Chicago, flashers on, he pulls up to the hospital exit to pick us up. He comes up to the room and helps get us packed up. We are a family of 3, happy and ready for the world. We get in, car seat secure, strapped in, go to start the car. It. Won’t. Start. The battery is dead. Welcome to our world little baby! Lesson: Just park the car or as least turn off the flashers, or know your battery status. #mcdonaldchronicles
Disclaimer: I got no kickbacks or associate fees for any products recommended in this post and am not responsible for how they work for you. I just like them.
Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald is a board certified OBGYN. She began practicing medicine in 2007 and now uses her extensive knowledge and growing following to increase health awareness in a fun and viral way. She is the founder of The Gyneco-blogic and an author of numerous books for adult and childhood health education and social growth. For more, check me, I mean her out at dreverywoman.com