Partners and Pregnancy
Even though partners do not undergo the dramatic physical changes of pregnancy, they have their own challenges and uncertainties. Many partners have feelings of joy and excitement as well as anxiety and ambivalence. Your partner may be unsure of how to help during pregnancy and labor, or of how to be a parent. Your partner may also have concerns about financial matters or how your pregnancy and the baby birth will affect your sexual relationship. Here are some tips on how to involve your partner more fully in the experience of pregnancy.
Tips For Partners in Pregnancy
Get involved early in the pregnancy experience. Preparing yourself now will be of tremendous value in the weeks to come. Often in helping to choose the birth attendants, midwife or physician, and being involved in the choice of where the baby will be born is a way partners begin becoming involved in the pregnancy.
- Plan to attend some prenatal appointments with your partner. Going to visits with her physician or midwife is a way to be supportive of your partner and at the same time be included in the pregnancy process.
- Attend prenatal classes and obtain videos or reading materials about pregnancy, birth and parenting (available at Newborn Connections).
- Begin financial planning early.
- Engage your partner in open and honest discussions about what she is experiencing and what you are feeling. Acknowledge your concerns and your excitement.
Expectant fathers/partners also need to ask themselves what kinds of support they believe they will need at the birth. One of the most helpful resources as you begin to sort through these questions will be other fathers/partners.
- Find role models; observe the way they interact with their partners and children.
- Ask questions such as: What worked best for you and your partner during labor? How has your life changed since having the baby? How have you adjusted to the changes in your daily life and in your relationship with your partner? What changes did you anticipate and which surprised you?
Pregnancy results in some changes in a couple's sexual relationship. While most physical changes occur in the mother, partners are often known to have "sympathy pains" and both partners will experience the need to emotionally adjust to many changes.
Effects of Physical Changes on Sexual Activity
- Breast size increases and breasts may become more tender, making position and support during love making important.
- Early in pregnancy many women experience nausea, extreme fatigue, and perhaps ambivalence which may decrease sexual desires.
- Pregnancy results in an increased blood supply to the pelvic area which may intensify sensations. Therefore, some women and their partners find intercourse in the second trimester very enjoyable.
- During the third trimester, the growth of the baby separates the parents in a very real way, making positioning a problem. After the baby descends to the pelvis, the mother may find bothersome increased pressure to her pelvic area. Be creative and experiment with different positions or find other ways of expressing your love.
- Vaginal lubrication may be affected by hormonal changes. Although many women experience an increase in secretions, a decrease is not uncommon. Decreased secretions could cause irritation and make intercourse uncomfortable. A water soluble lubricant such as K-Y jelly or Astroglide may be used.
- The mother may be more susceptible to vaginal and urinary infections. Due to the pregnancy, the usual medications for treatment of these conditions may not be allowed. Therefore, in the case of a persistent or transferable infection, the couple may be advised to discontinue intercourse or to use condoms.
If you have any questions about the safety of intercourse for your baby or yourself, consult your health care provider for his or her recommendations.
- Generally, sexual activity during pregnancy does not pose a risk for the baby because the baby is protected by the uterus, amniotic fluid, layers of muscle tissue, the bony pelvis and the mucus plug lodged in the cervix.
- Intercourse may be considered safe throughout the pregnancy, unless the mother is aware of previous problems, or if during intercourse, the mother experiences pain, bleeding or the bag of water is broken.
- Orgasms may last a little longer in a pregnant woman. The uterus contracts rhythmically as the result of an orgasm. Therefore, some experts are concerned that orgasms may start labor prematurely. If you are at high risk for premature labor, you may be advised to abstain from intercourse. Be creative in finding other ways of expressing love and gratifying your partner.
Adjusting to the physical changes resulting from pregnancy can be difficult for both partners. Here are some resources you might find helpful:
- For pregnancy support groups - call (415) 600-BABY, California Pacific Medical Center's Newborn Connections.
- For information regarding couples counseling - call (415) 600-3247 for the Outpatient Mental Health Clinic at California Pacific Medical Center.
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