What is the man's role during pregnancy?

November 5, 2021

While pregnancy seems so heavily like a woman’s job, there is so much that the dad-to-be can contribute to help both mother and baby. Not just doctor’s visits or helping in setting up things needed for the baby’s arrival, there are aspects related to comforting mum, both physically and emotionally that are so important.  

Many studies have shown that the husband’s involvement in the pregnancy reduces negative maternal health behaviors, risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, foetal growth restriction and infant mortality. It has been proven that if  the husband is generous with emotional, logistical and financial support, there is significant reduction in maternal stress.

Factors contributed by fathers-to-be

While it is commonly known that the pregnant woman’s habits like smoking or drinking alcohol during pregnancy can harm the growing baby, there is a growing body of research suggesting that a man’s diet, drinking, smoking, and age may contribute to birth defects, autism, obesity, mental illnesses, and other problems in their kids.

In one study done by Kitlinska and team, it was found that children whose fathers were over 40 had a much higher risk of autism compared to those with fathers under 30. Other large studies backed up this finding. Older fathers also tend to have children who are more likely to get schizophrenia.

It was also established that obese men are were likely to father children who face a higher risk for obesity. Their children were more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, an abnormal metabolism, and certain cancers. This may happen because obesity and poor nutrition cause changes in certain genes directly linked to these conditions.

As many as 3 out of 4 children diagnosed with foetal alcohol spectrum disorders had alcoholic fathers. Children with these disorders tended to have low birth weight, impaired brain development, and learning.

What husbands need to know about pregnancy

Try to learn as much as you can about pregnancy. Read about what to expect during each trimester. Get a good level of working knowledge of pregnancy symptoms. 

Initially, nausea hits and so does fatigue. What causes it? What can be done to help manage it? The iMumz App has week-by-week tips that extensively cover all symptoms and helpful suggestions.

The second trimester gets easier for mum, but she has to keep on top of her nutrition. What nutrients are needed? What kind of recipes would cover all her needs? Maybe, you might need to change your own eating habits to show solidarity with her. 

In the third trimester, aches and pains because of the growing belly may make her restless. Insomnia is also common. Back and foot massages can help ease stress and aches as the pregnancy goes on. Help her with cleaning and cooking.   

Husbands, understand your pregnant wife!

Here is a 30-second guide to what is happening in the pregnant woman’s emotional state. Once a fertilized egg implants in her uterus, the newly-forming placenta begins to secrete hormones that are critical for the baby’s growth.

This gush of  hormones is so essential for the pregnancy to flourish. Human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG (which rises sharply in the first trimester, then dips and levels off around four months), keeps the embryo firmly implanted in the uterine lining. Progesterone and estrogen (which increase throughout the nine months) help sustain the pregnancy and cause the buildup of nourishing blood vessels.

This hormonal bath or shower of hormones  which is so beneficial to the baby can get really tough for the mum-to-be. It causes morning sickness, vomiting, and headaches. Estrogen can cause extreme moodiness. Add to that the aches, pains and fear of childbirth. The pregnant woman can get really vulnerable during pregnancy!

How can the husband of a pregnant woman help? Here are some suggestions:

1. Listen to her carefully

Being pregnant can make her want to talk to someone, express all her feelings, take out all she has inside her, while sometimes she might be silent than usual. Yes, those hundreds of thousands of thoughts inside her may keep her silent, and being a good husband, it's your duty to understand when she wants to talk, and when she wants to be silent and just be in your arms.

2. Provide financial support

While some pregnant women may be perfectly capable of taking care of the added expenses of pregnancy: the doctor’s fee, the cost of tests, the dietary additions, there may be some who are dependent on their husbands. 

Denying or grudging her this support can make her extremely anxious and even depressed.

3. Show care and sympathy through your actions

Take some time to introspect about your daily routine and behaviours. It would be nice to make some adjustments. Think about what all you can do -- make her a glass of saffron milk every morning? Roast some nuts and keep at her bedside? Cut and serve her an apple as she gets ready to go to work? Remind her about things her ‘pregnancy brain’ is causing her to forget. You need to be patient and supportive!

It is also good to prepare for doctor’s visits with a list of your own questions and have a checklist ready for emergencies.

10 Things a Husband should NOT say to his pregnant wife 

1- Is it really required that I come to the doctor every time?

2- Why are you so slow ?

3- How will all this crying help?

4- How can you forget to take medicines?

5- You have to eat well for my baby.

6- Don’t worry, it's normal.

7- Why can’t you just snap out of this mood? 

8- I don’t think other pregnant women have so many issues.

9- Let’s get intimate!

10- Will you get back into shape after eating so much?

10 Things Husband COULD DO for his pregnant wife

1- Fix her a nutritious snack! 

2- Get her fresh fruits and veggies.

3- Accompany her during walks. 

4- Maintain the calendar of her prenatal visits.  

5- Help with household chores.

6- Read books on pregnancy.

7- Watch babies videos together.

8- Talk to her reassuringly, without judging.

9- Try to keep her away from family drama.

10- Talk to the baby, too! 

Dad’s Anger and violence in pregnancy can be harmful

Maybe, you are going through some issues yourself. It could be work-related stress or a family situation that is making you emotionally distressed. Perhaps, the financial requirements in preparation for a new baby are making you anxious. Whatever it is, expression of your negative emotions on your pregnant wife carries huge risks for her and the unborn baby, too.

Your anger could cause changes in the mother's stress response systems, increasing her levels of the hormone cortisol, which in turn could increase cortisol levels in the unborn baby.

Cortisol is neurotoxic, so it has damaging effects on the brain when elevated to excessive levels. That might cause emotional problems for the baby after birth.

Depression during pregnancy is increasing in urban women with one report indicating its presence in 75% of new mothers. 

If the pregnant woman is fretting, anxious and unable to sleep, it causes a decrease in the function of her immune system, hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal gland. 

This directly affects the development of the unborn baby’s cognitive and noncognitive skills. It leads to increased incidences of uterine growth retardation, preterm labor, prolonged labor, fetal heart rate decline, low birth weight, increased cesarean section, postnatal neurobehavioral problems, and developmental disorder.

On the contrary, when the pregnant woman is calm and at peace, the baby’s brain grows faster and labour is easier.

Baby Holding Mother's Finger Photograph by Ian Hooton/science Photo Library

How can husband and wife work together to make pregnancy happy

1- Try not to keep your worries to yourself. Share your thoughts, fears, and hopes with each other. Just communicating, even if neither of you has a solution, can reduce anxieties greatly.

2- Talk about what it will be like to be a parent . Talk about challenges you may confront like work and child care issues. Discuss expectations, values and beliefs.

3- Use creative problem solving. Discuss each other’s point of view during which time the problem will likely disappear, decide which problem you are really addressing, and brainstorm on solutions.

4- Use reassuring phrases like, ‘I am not feeling what you are, but I can understand’ or ‘Let’s take a day at a time’ or ‘Hold on, dear, I am with you.’

5- Play this sweet game: Write out your role in her pregnancy and ask her also to write out what she wants your role to be. Compare the notes!  Maybe, there will be some startling discoveries.

6- Talk about the bundle of joy that is on the way. Discuss the future. Visualise the happiness! You could meditate together using the beautiful options available on the iMumz App.

7- Appreciate the efforts both of you are taking for each other. Go out for a walk, spend time with each other and talk about all the things that you are grateful for in your life.