What you need to know during pregnancy:
While it's true that she's having the baby and she's the one whose belly is growing, there's lots for Dad to do during this exciting and sometimes confusing time.
What you can do during pregnancy:
- Be involved. Go with your partner to her preconception and prenatal visits.
- Watch, listen, browse and read. Watch videotapes, listen to audiotapes, check out the Internet, or read books about pregnancy, childbirth and being a parent. Call the Pregnancy and Newborn Health Education CenterSM at the March of Dimes for suggestions: 888-MODIMES (888-663-4637).
- 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. Look together at your finances.
- Learn. Go to childbirth education classes with your partner.
- Help your partner stay healthy during pregnancy. Help her eat healthy foods, exercise, quit smoking, stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs and avoid dangerous workplace and household hazards (such as paint thinner and weed killers). Quit smoking yourself. Secondhand smoke is bad for pregnant women and babies.
- Continue to have sex if you and your partner wish to do so. In most cases, it's safe for a couple to have sex during pregnancy. Check with your partner's health care provider. 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.
- Be supportive. If your partner chooses to breastfeed, support her decision.
Becoming a Dad
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. Here are seven things you can do.
1. 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 doctor, midwife or nurse how you can help during labor and delivery.
2. Watch, listen, browse and read. Watch videotapes, listen to audiotapes, check out the Internet, or read books about pregnancy, childbirth and being a parent. Call the Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education Center at the March of Dimes for suggestions: 1-888-MODIMES (1-888-663-4637).
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Help your partner stay healthy during pregnancy.
- Help her eat lots of different 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. 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 doctor or groups such as the American Cancer Society.
- Help your partner 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 your partner 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 the doctor about drugs and herbal products. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can also 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 doctor will make sure that any prescription or over-the-counter medicine she is taking is safe for the baby.
- Make sure your partner stays 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.
- Exercise during pregnancy. Exercise is a great thing you can do together. Walking is easy and cheap, and it can be done almost anywhere. 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 how a woman feels and in her 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 your body.
6. Continue to have sex if you and your partner wish to do so. 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.
7. If your partner chooses to breastfeed, support her decision. Breastmilk 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.