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How to be a supportive partner during pregnancy

Happy married couple holding on to wife's pregnant belly

Pregnancy is certainly a time of excitement. Apart from feeling joy, some pregnant women also deal with feelings of anxiety due to hormonal changes and the stress from dealing with changes and unknowns.

During pregnancy, a partner’s support is especially crucial as not only does it set the stage for what’s going to happen post-pregnancy, it’ll benefit everyone, including the baby. As a partner, if all you’ve been doing is feeling clueless and making an entrance only when your partner needs help — stop. You’re doing it wrong.

Here’s how you can support and contribute during this period to ensure your partner goes through a stress free and happy pregnancy.

1. Read up on pregnancy

My first suggestion is to read up to prepare yourself for any surprises and to arm yourself with some good-to-know knowledge. If you don’t know where to start, I recommend doing research on the different trimesters. When does morning sickness intensify, which stage is important for the baby’s development, and do symptoms change depending on the trimester? Did you know that expecting mothers feel the most energetic during their second trimester?

Knowing such information can help your wife feel less alone in this journey, and it’ll definitely come in handy when making important decisions, such as prenatal tests.

2. Strengthen your relationship with each other

Something I’ve noticed in my practice in Singapore is that couples tend to focus more on practical needs. Things like buying the right stroller, ensuring the baby’s bed is fixed and stocking up on diapers seem to be of utmost importance. While those shouldn’t be neglected, the priority at this point should be on nurturing the relationship and supporting each other emotionally as much as possible.

In practical terms, this could mean sharing with each other often about your feelings, and then validating each other to make sure no thought goes unheard or unaccepted. For instance, your pregnant partner might feel bored cooped up at home all day. Instead of saying: “I need to work, go hang out with your friends”, a more appropriate answer would be: “It sounds like you miss seeing your friends. Is there anything I can do to help?”

Building healthy validating skills before your child’s arrival will cement your bond for the many challenges to come.

Husband giving her pregnant wife a back massage

3. Make your intentions known

This includes voicing out the ways in which you’ll show support, be it washing the dishes or agreeing that you’ll take on diaper changing duties at night once the baby comes along. Now, here’s the magical part: when an expectant mother perceives that she has a supportive partner, the chances of her going through the pregnancy healthy and happy is a lot higher. To put it simply, letting her know your intentions is already half the battle won.

Obviously, you have to follow up with your actions too. If you don’t actually carry out what you promise, then forget it — the benefits of perceived support won’t last for long.

Over time, supportive partners will learn that the best kind of support is nonverbal, such as offering a hug when emotions are low and stepping up in simple, common sense ways, like bringing a glass of water or offering to buy dinner.

4. Attend birthing classes together

Birthing classes teach how labour can be managed and made slightly easier through techniques like deep breathing. It’ll also be good to know what to expect once the big day kicks in so the both of you can draw up an action plan. Start planning on things like the delivery method, whether you want to be in the delivery room and what to do during an emergency. But of course, be flexible as things can always go unplanned. The point here is for the both of you to feel like you are ready and in control of what’s about to happen.

In any case, most birthing classes require that the expectant mother attend the course with a partner — that should be you.

5. Expect mood swings and food cravings

Pregnancy doesn’t only bring physical changes but a rollercoaster of emotional changes too. Your partner might feel like a completely different person, especially if this pregnancy is her first. If she starts being sensitive at the slightest things, the last thing you want to do is start an argument.

During pregnancy, your partner might feel the need to sleep more, especially during the first and third trimester. As the baby develops, energy levels will drop — so give her time to rest, and as much as possible, find ways to ensure she has a comfortable environment to rest in.

Random food cravings and aversions will also be the new normal during pregnancy. Your partner might not enjoy her favourite anymore, or won’t be able to withstand the smell of a particular food.

Ultimately, if you notice that your partner may be struggling with more than just pregnancy mood swings and exhibiting signs of anxiety or depression, do seek help from a professional.

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