Helping out during pregnancy
Finding out that you are going to be a father can be an exciting and confusing time. You may be asking yourself:
- How will having a baby change my life?
- How will I pay for all the things our baby will need?
- How can I be a good dad?
- What can I do to help during pregnancy?
Questions like these are normal.
How can you help your partner?
Here are seven things you can do to help your partner have a healthy pregnancy:
- Go with your partner to her preconception and prenatal visits. The health care provider will need to know your medical history, too. Get to know the people who will be taking care of your partner and baby during the pregnancy.
Before you and your partner visit her health care provider, write down any questions you have and discuss them with her. And don't be afraid to ask those questions during the visit.
During the prenatal visit at the end of the first trimester (months 1–3 of the pregnancy), you can hear the baby's heartbeat.
During the second trimester (months 4–6), go with your partner if she needs an ultrasound (a test that uses sound waves to take a picture of the baby). You'll be able to see your baby's head, arms, hands, legs and feet. You may even find out the sex of your baby. Your baby will start to seem very real to you.
During a third-trimester (months 7–9) prenatal visit, ask the provider how you can help during labor and delivery.
- Watch, listen, browse and read. Watch videotapes, listen to audiotapes, check out the Internet, or read books about pregnancy, childbirth and being a parent.
- Help plan for the baby. 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. If you are worried about not having enough money, here are some tips to help you:
- Ask family members and friends if you can borrow a crib, changing table, toys and baby clothes. Many people are between kids or don't plan to have any more kids and are glad to let you use their baby things.
- Check out secondhand and thrift shops. They often have baby furniture, toys and clothes at low prices. Put a small amount of money aside each week to help pay for baby things. Even $10 a week can add up to make things easier once the baby comes.
- Go to childbirth education classes with your partner. You will learn how to help your partner during labor and delivery. Ask the doctor, midwife, nurse or local hospital or clinic about childbirth classes near you.
- Help your partner stay healthy during pregnancy.
- Help her eat lots of different healthy foods. Good choices include whole grain breads, cereal, rice and pasta; skim or low-fat milk, cheese and yogurt; low-fat meat and chicken; and lots of fruits and vegetables. Eating Healthy has helpful information for your partner. And watch what you eat, too! If you eat right, you'll make it easier for her.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke, you are blowing out secondhand smoke. This smoke isn't good for your partner or the baby. It can hurt the baby when it's inside your partner's uterus and after birth. Also, pregnant women who smoke are more likely to have babies born too small and too soon. If you both smoke or even if one of you smokes, now is a great time to quit. Get help from your provider or groups such as the American Cancer Society.
- Help her stay away from alcohol. It's best for women not to drink any alcohol during pregnancy because it can cause birth defects. Help your partner stay away from beer, wine, wine coolers, liquor and mixed drinks. You can help by giving her healthy juices and water to drink or by making fun nonalcoholic drinks together. If your partner drinks a lot of alcohol and can't stop, get help for her.
- Help her stay away from street drugs. Illegal drugs can hurt your baby. Get help for your partner if she uses illegal drugs. If you use illegal drugs, stop now for your baby's sake.
- Talk to her about drugs and herbal products. Some prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can hurt your baby. Your partner should tell her health care provider about any medicines she is taking. She also should check with her provider before taking any new medicine. The provider can make sure that any prescription or over-the-counter medicine your partner is taking is safe for the baby.
- Help your partner stay away from dangerous household products. Keep paint, paint thinner, solvents and pesticides away from your partner. Don't let her empty a cat's litter box.
- Encourage her to exercise. Exercise is a great thing you can do together. Walking is easy and cheap, and it can be done almost anywhere. Exercise has more information. Check with your partner's health care provider to find out the safest kinds of exercise you can do together.
- Help your partner get rest and lower her stress.
Letting your partner rest when she needs to is good for her and the baby. You can help by cleaning up, shopping for groceries and making meals. Take a nap or cuddle together. Talking together about your hopes and plans for the baby can help lower stress.
- Understand the changes that are a normal part of pregnancy. Pregnancy causes many changes in a woman's body. You may find that your partner is happy one minute and sad the next. These fast changes in feelings are called mood swings and are common during pregnancy. Your partner also may be tired a lot of the time. That's because it's hard work to carry a new and growing life inside of her body.
- Have sex if you and your partner want to. Your partner may want to have more sex or less sex than before she was pregnant. Her desire for sex may change as her body changes. Many people find that sex feels different during pregnancy. As her belly gets bigger, try different positions. Find one that's comfortable for both of you. Talk to each other about what feels good. Remember, as long as your health care provider says it's okay, it's safe to have sex during pregnancy. It won't hurt the baby.
- To avoid sexually transmitted infections, have sex with only one person who doesn't have any other sexual partners and/or use a condom when having sex. Discuss HIV testing for you and your partner with your health care provider.
- 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 breastfeeding together. Talk to your doctor, midwife or nurse about breastfeeding.
Last reviewed August 2009
Most common questions
Can dad's exposure to chemicals harm his future kids?
Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.
Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at www.otispregnancy.org.
Do I need a birth plan?
You don't have to have a birth plan. But having one is a great idea! A birth plan is a set of instructions you make about your baby's birth. It tells your provider how you feel about things like who you want with you during labor, what you want to do during labor, if you want drugs to help with labor pain, and if there are special religious or cultural practices you want to have happen once your baby is born. Fill out a birth plan with your partner. Then share it with your provider and with the nurses at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to have your baby. Share it with your family and other support people, too. It's best for everyone to know ahead of time how you want labor and birth to be.
Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?
For most women, yes. Unless your health care provider advises you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for you and your baby. Some circumstances make sex during pregnancy unsafe. Pregnant women who have any of these health complications should talk to their provider before having sex:
Usually, a woman can continue sexual activity during pregnancy as long as she feels comfortable. Talk to your health care provider about any specific questions.