Expecting a child can be one of the most exciting experiences a couple shares, but it isn't without challenges. The physical, hormonal and emotional shifts that come along with pregnancy can be overwhelming for both partners.
With the right approach, though, pregnancy can help you grow stronger as a couple. To make the most of this time of your life together, consider the following advice backed by research and a relationship expert.
1. Be a Good Listener
Even if your partner is thrilled to be expecting, she may also be scared, nervous or uncertain. Be her sounding board, encouraging her to share her thoughts and feelings with you.
Committing to "unplugged" time sans electronics to really connect and listen to your partner is especially important during pregnancy, Megan Fleming, PhD, a clinical sex and relationship therapist in New York City, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Both partners are likely to feel overwhelmed, Fleming adds, making nervous systems run high and both of you more likely to overreact.
Read more: What to Expect With Pregnancy, Week by Week
“Having frequent conversations and knowing you are on the same page will help you give each other the benefit of the doubt when there are those inevitable moments of miscommunication,” she says. “Do yourselves both a favor and slow things down, take things off your plate that you can do later or delegate to others.”
When you’re listening, aim to understand. Ask thoughtful questions and reflect her responses back to her, resisting any urge to “fix” things, Fleming adds.
2. Offer to Do More Housework
A study published in the Journal of Family Issues in July 2015 showed that how partners feel about the breakdown of housework plays a huge role in how fair the relationship feels during pregnancy. Given the emotional challenges pregnancy can bring, supporting your significant other by doing more than your usual share of the cooking and cleaning may be particularly important during these months.
“We are wired for connection, and we aren’t meant to go through such life-changing experiences alone. Remember that you are a team for all that’s about to happen.”
Pregnant women frequently have to cope with morning sickness and exhaustion. Picking up more of the chores may seem relatively simple, but it could mean a lot to someone who has spent much of her day feeling nauseated or tired. Importantly, it will show your partner that you're aware of her needs and you want to do all you can to help her.
3. Learn Together
Even if your partner is planning to be the primary caretaker, both of you are going to be parents. So, to get on the same page when it comes to your parenting style, try taking a parenting class together. Learn how to change diapers, fix bottles, install a car-seat properly and baby-proof your house alongside your significant other. She'll likely appreciate feeling like you are her partner in this process, not merely an interested observer.
Indeed, research published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth in July 2017 found that shared professional support during pregnancy can improve a couple's ability to communicate and increase a sense of togetherness. You can also learn from parents who’ve gone through this process and have an idea of what to expect, Fleming adds, about everything from delivery to what to do once you’re home with your new baby.
“As I always say, we know what we know and don’t know what we don’t know,” says Fleming. “A class, a course, a book, a video — any and all mediums that you learn from can be helpful tools in your developing toolbox.”
4. Help Her Keep Things in Perspective
Given the changes the body undergoes throughout pregnancy, it’s not unusual for a woman to feel unattractive or undesirable. If your partner expresses discomfort about her body, let her speak openly about it.
“You have the opportunity to help her figure out why she’s feeling this way and what might help resolve those feelings,” says Fleming.
If physical changes leave your partner feeling out of control, Fleming suggests reminding her that she won’t always be pregnant. “Have her mentally roll the camera forward to when your child is older and she is once again feeling comfortable in her body,” she suggests.
Read more: How to Tone Up During Pregnancy
5. Work Together as a Team
Whenever possible, accompany your partner to her doctor appointments. Be aware of her birth plan or help her formulate one, so you'll know how best to help her through labor. Together, you can discuss childbirth options with your physician ahead of time.
Meanwhile, combine forces to prepare your home for your little one's arrival. Help your partner shop for baby clothes, choose a crib and pick the colors for the nursery. Preparing for a baby is often fun for parents-to-be, and sharing the experience can alleviate stress and deepen intimacy.
“We are wired for connection, and we aren’t meant to go through such life-changing experiences alone,” says Fleming. “Remember that you are a team for all that’s about to happen.”
- Dr Megan Fleming: "Create relationships you love"
- Journal of Family Issues: "Couple-Level Predictors of Perceived Fairness During Pregnancy in First-Time Parents"
- BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth: "‘To be able to support her, I must feel calm and safe’: pregnant women’s partners perceptions of professional support during pregnancy"