March 13, 2011

Marriage, Relationships & Family

A Man’s Guide to Pregnancy: How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife

In today’s society, it’s easy to forget that there any major differences between the genders. Until your wife gets pregnant. Then the difference between the sexes will yawn like a great chasm before you. While your pregnant wife spends nine months growing a baby inside of her, you will be left to watch from the outside; after you’ve made your deposit, your role in the baby-making miracle is complete.

But while your biological contribution might be over, if you’re like me, you’ll still want to be part of the pregnancy process.

Being a pregnant wife is tough. Seeing what Kate went through to bring my progeny into the world certainly gave me a greater appreciation for her and for womankind in general. As a man I wanted to be there for Kate as much as possible while she cooked the Gus bun in her oven. I wanted her to be as happy and comfortable as possible, and I wanted to do whatever I could to help our little kiddo come out kicking and screaming like a champ.

A lot of guys find the pregnancy process a little bewildering. Not knowing what to do, they end up nervously backing away instead of stepping up the support when their women need them the most. So I decided to start a series for dads-to-be to discuss the ins and outs of this very cool but nerve-racking period in your life. Today, we’ll talk about how to take care of your pregnant wife . Then we’ll talk about how to get ready for the new arrival to come home, how to deliver a baby in an emegency (you never know!), and how to be an awesome coach during the birthing process.

How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife

Respond appropriately to the news your wife is pregnant. If you weren’t planning on the arrival of a bundle of joy, make sure you don’t respond in a way that shows you’re not excited about the news. Inappropriate responses would include: breaking down and crying tears of agony, making a face of disgust, or asking why she wasn’t using her birth control. You want your wife to feel confident and secure that you’ll be there for her during these trying nine months and that you’re willing to step up and be a great dad.

Read some books on pregnancy. The more you know about what she’s going through, the better equipped you are to empathize and know how to help. There are hundreds of pregnancy books to choose from. What to Expect When You’re Expecting is a classic and guides you through what your wife is experiencing during each step of her pregnancy. They have a section dedicated just to dads that has a lot of useful information. It also lays out the development of your baby throughout his/her incubation. I thought it was kind of fun to check the book to see when Gus lost his vestigial tail or his eyes moved from the sides of his head to the front where they belong.

Accompany her to doctor’s appointments. This serves three purposes. First and most importantly, it shows your pregnant wife that you’re with her all the way in the pregnancy. Second, you’ll know exactly what’s going on with her pregnancy and will be better prepared to help her.  Pay close attention to what the doctor says at these visits. A woman’s memory takes a dive during pregnancy and she may be nervous and excited, so your wife might rely on you to remind her about which cheeses she’s not supposed to eat. Finally, seeing your baby’s picture, even when it looks like an indistinguishable lump, and hearing its heartbeat will help create a fetus/father bond. Even if you’re really busy at work or school, always make time for the doctor’s appointments.

Reduce her stress. Pregnancy is physically and emotionally demanding, so don’t burden your  pregnant wife with any unneeded pressure. Take on more of the household chores so your wife can rest.

Help her get some ZZZs. Sleeping will become a more and more uncomfortable as your wife gets further along in her pregnancy.  When women sleep on their back, the baby’s weight puts pressure on their spine, back muscles, intestines, and major blood vessels. All this can lead to pain, decreased circulation, and consequently trouble falling asleep. On top of that, the baby could be using your wife’s uterus as a punching bag right around bedtime. Try falling asleep when you’re getting punched and kicked from the inside. (Gus was super-active at nighttime when he was in the womb. Which didn’t make Kate very happy.)

There are a few things you can do to help your pregnant wife get some shuteye.

  • Get your wife a full body pillow. Pregnant woman are supposed to sleep on their side instead of on their back or stomach. A full body pillow makes side sleeping a bit more comfortable by helping support the back and cradling your wife’s belly.
  • Backrubs right before bed.
  • Herbal tea that relaxes the mind and body.
  • Cuddling
  • Sexy time.

Be patient. Pregnancy totally wreaks havoc on your wife’s hormones. Some days she’ll feel fantastic, some days she’ll bite your head off as soon as you open your mouth, and some days she’ll break down and cry for no reason at all. Be patient and recognize that it’s the hormones. Also, be understanding when it comes to your love life. Your wife’s sex drive will be all over the place during her pregnancy: often plummeting in the first trimester, bouncing back in the second and falling again in the third. Patience, friend, patience.

Handling frequent peeing. Pregnant women pee frequently. Very frequently. I’m talking every 30 minutes they’re making a run for the bathroom. It’s kind of funny, but put yourself in your wife’s shoes, and you’ll see just how much of an inconvenience it is. Imagine having to get up three times during a movie or several times in the middle of the night just to take a leak. Two things you can do to help your wife out in this area:

First, be understanding and accommodating. Don’t roll your eyes or grumble under your breath when your wife asks you to pull over into a gas station so she can go to the bathroom.

Second, keep her path to the bathroom clear so she doesn’t trip over anything during her night trips. Installing a night light in the hallway can be really helpful as well.

Act like you’re pregnant. No, I don’t mean you need to put on one of those ridiculous bodysuits that let men know what it feels like to be pregnant. Nor am I encouraging wild mood swings and consuming ice cream sprinkled with pickle juice. What I’m talking about here is adding or dropping the same habits your wife has to add or drop because she’s pregnant. It’s a way to show moral support and to help her follow doctor’s orders as closely as she can. So when your wife has to give up alcohol and coffee, become a teetotaler too (or at least don’t imbibe in front of her). Exercise is incredibly beneficial to mom and baby to be, so help her get in the habit by offering to go for a walk or to the gym together.

Tell her she’s beautiful and that you love her. Your wife will be undergoing some serious body transformations during pregnancy. Reassure her that you think she’s beautiful and that you love her immensely. Affirm your unwavering dedication to her each and every day.

Help her through morning sickness. Morning sickness is quite possibly the worst part of pregnancy (well, besides that whole labor thing). It strikes about 75 percent of all pregnant women. Symptoms of morning sickness include headaches, excessive sleepiness and of course feelings of nausea and sometimes vomiting. Most women will start feeling the symptoms of morning sickness about a month after conception, and it will typically last until the twelfth to fourteenth week of pregnancy. Some women will experience morning sickness their entire pregnancy.

Despite its name, morning sickness doesn’t happen only in the morning. Most women experience the symptoms of morning sickness all day long. When helping her through this rocky period, the key is to keep experimenting with different remedies. Introduce new treatments each day to see which work for her and which don’t. Be willing to make many trips, sometimes late at night, in search of something else to ease her troubles. Here are a few remedies that might do the trick:

  • Vitamin B6 supplements. Studies have shown that vitamin B6 supplements can alleviate the symptoms of morning sickness.
  • Seasickness bracelets. Seasickness bracelets are elastic bands with plastic bumps that apply pressure to points on the wrist. Supposedly this pressure can reduce the feelings of nausea.
  • Ginger ale. The fizziness of ginger ale or any other clear soda can help with nausea. And ginger has been shown to reduce the symptoms of morning sickness. So ginger ale is a winning combo. Most popular brands of ginger ale don’t have any real ginger in them; look for smaller, independent brands that still use the real McCoy.
  • Crackers. The problem with morning sickness is that your wife will not feel like eating much, but an empty stomach will only make the feelings of nausea worse. Crackers are easy on the stomach and can stave off the nausea that starts in the morning. Have her eat some before she even gets out of bed.
  • Ginger or peppermint tea. As with ginger, peppermint has been shown to help reduce the feelings of nausea associated with morning sickness.
  • Be flexible. Some foods will be totally unappetizing to your wife one day, and the next it will be the only thing that appeals to her. Be flexible and give her whatever her stomach will keep down. Be willing to run out and buy whatever she craves.
  • Keep yourself clean. Pregnant women become hypersensitive to smells. Even scents she once enjoyed can now start her stomach churning. So brush your teeth and shower daily, or she may not be able to stand having you around.

Keep an open door policy for venting. Pregnacy, especially for first time moms, can be a little scary. Women wonder if the baby is doing okay, what labor will be like, whether they’ll have to have a c-section, and whether they’ll be good at being a mom. Be willing to let your wife vent or cry whenever they need to, even if it’s in the middle of the night. If there’s something specific that’s worrying your wife, do some research so you can confidently tell her, “Those pains you’re experiencing are normal and do not mean you will give birth to a two-headed hydra baby.”

A Man’s Guide to Pregnancy Series:
How to Take Care of a Pregnant Wife
How to Deliver a Baby in a Pinch
Getting Ready for the Baby Bomb
Your Progeny Enters the World

That’s all the advice I can think of. Now it’s your turn. All you dad’s out there, what advice do you have on taking care of a pregnant wife? Share with us in the comments.


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