By Brian Welsh, MD
While women often prepare for and discuss pregnancy with their friends before, during, and after pregnancy, men often walk into a first pregnancy as clueless as T.J. Watt at a dance recital. My most important recommendation is for you to be supportive! There are actually documented scientific studies showing women who have a supportive partner have lower rates of preterm delivery and growth problems with their babies. There are many ways to be supportive, and the first step should be asking her how you can help. The second step should be following through with her requests.
A commonly asked question is how do you calculate the due date? This is based on the woman’s last menstrual period, or an early ultrasound exam. Remember, a normal pregnancy is approximately 40 weeks after the first day of a woman’s last menstrual period.
What is going on during the first trimester? Most women will need much more rest than usual, so don’t be surprised by additional naps and earlier bed times. Many women will have intense nausea and vomiting, at all times of the day, not just in the morning, although, not all women experience this. Mood swings are very common, and not just in future moms, but future dads may experience this, too!
What should you expect in the second trimester? This is when most women feel their best during their pregnancy. Most women will start to “show” around this time, will have increased energy, and usually the nausea and vomiting is gone. Around 20 weeks (plus or minus a few), many women will start to feel the baby move, which is very exciting! Sorry dad, typically it will be much later before you feel the movement.
And what happens in the final stretch, the third trimester? Well get ready dad, this is usually when the future mom is the most uncomfortable. Very commonly, she will have difficulty sleeping as well as walking. As she wonders if she is ready for an infant, anxiety and nerves start to set in, but oftentimes, so does a new level of excitement. All of these changes in feelings are perfectly normal!
Okay, so the most important question, right? Can we have sex during pregnancy? In short, yes. There are some conditions that your OB/GYN will recommend are unsafe to have intercourse, so if you are unsure, ASK, but generally speaking it is totally safe. Keep in mind that as your partner’s belly gets bigger, you will need to try new positions and be considerate, if intercourse is uncomfortable for your partner.
Another great question is how can YOU prepare for labor? First, learn how to get to the hospital, where it is, the labor and delivery entrance, and even take a tour, so you are comfortable with the hospital where your baby will be delivered. Secondly, make sure you have a rear facing car seat installed. Your baby cannot leave the hospital without one! Safercar.gov has many tips on picking and installing a car seat. Additionally, yes you, dad, need to get vaccinated. If it is flu season, get your flu shot, and you also should get your Tdap vaccine at least two weeks prior to delivery. Unfortunately, your partner’s OB/GYN cannot give you the vaccinations, however, most local pharmacies offer them.
And remember dads; you can ask questions at appointments too. As always, it is encouraged that you discuss any concerns you have with your partner’s physician. Stay tuned for part 2 of A Pregnancy Crash Course for Dad!