If you’re a support person to a pregnant Mama and you’re reading this blog, you’re already taking the first step to support her! Good start! Pregnancy can be a very confusing time for both the Mama and her partner. Sometimes she may not even know what she wants or needs or how to ask for it, but some of these suggestions can help you to figure it out. Some of these suggestions can be done without her asking and will let her know she is loved! Partner support increases happiness and decreases stress, which leads to healthier moms and newborns.
The number one thing that you can do for her is “see something, do something.” If you see dirty dishes, laundry, dirty floors, an unpaid bill, or an errand that needs to be run, do it without her asking. Cook a meal or order out for her favorite meal. Arrange for help. And don’t keep score! This motto will serve you well if kept up throughout your relationship. Just make sure you don’t ruin any of her clothes, or this could backfire on you!
There are a few especially important things that you can do throughout the pregnancy and postpartum that she probably won’t even know you’re doing. Watch for signs of depression. Know the signs, watch for changes or odd behaviors, and know how to help. Know she’s not being lazy, it’s not her fault, it’s not a choice she made, and that she loves you and the baby. She is having chemical changes in her brain that are causing these behaviors. Make sure both she and the baby are safe at all times. Get someone to stay with her. Call her doctor or midwife. The Postpartum Support International hotline is 800-944-4PPD (4773).
Next up is listening to her. Ask her what she needs and listen carefully to the answer. She may not want you to “fix” anything. She may just need to vent or be heard. Encourage her, let her know she’s doing a great job. Let her know she’s exactly what her baby needs to grow and thrive. Help calm her anxiety. Do deep breathing exercises with her. If you can’t do what she needs, find someone who can. Also discuss how and when announcements will be made. Who will you tell important news? Will you set up a text thread or will you call everyone individually? Will you let people know she’s in labor right away or wait until after you get home to make the announcement? Who will be allowed to visit and when? Will you turn your phones and social media off during labor? Some of these decisions can be overwhelming if made in the moment, especially when she is exhausted after labor and when first bringing baby home. Also, remember she has the right to change her mind at any time as circumstances change. She might have wanted all.the.visitors., but has now figured out it’s too much for her. It’s your job to be the gate keeper and fend off the mob.
Encourage relaxation and self-care. If you’re practicing “see something, do something,” she should have some time for this. Run her a warm bath or offer a massage. You can also spend quality time with her doing these things. She may like a couples massage or pedicures. Take a walk with her. However, don’t take it personally if she’d like to do these things alone or with a girlfriend. Offering the opportunity is the important part. Make sure you keep this up after the baby comes and becomes a toddler and you’ll be her hero!
Offer affection but pay attention to her cues. There is a fine line between offering affection and expecting something in return. At different times during the pregnancy and postpartum, she may or may
not want intercourse or other physical attention. Her growing body may make things uncomfortable and things that she liked in the past may not be enjoyable now. Talk about her feelings, her body, and her needs. She may only want to hold hands, snuggle and hug or she may need a different position for intercourse.
She’ll be making a few lifestyle changes and you can show solidarity by adopting them too. Eating healthy, less caffeine, no alcohol, and quitting smoking are all things you can do. Starting these things during the pregnancy and making them permanent changes will also lead to a healthier newborn and a healthier family for a lifetime. If you’re cooking the meal or ordering out, there will be other changes like no raw fish or seafood, limits on fish intake, and some fish that are not allowed at all. Deli meats and hot dogs must be cooked until steaming. Eggs must be cooked until the yolk is firm. Unpasteurized foods, soft cheeses, and unwashed fruits and veggies can carry bacteria.
Get educated. Read the info that comes from the doctor’s office and go to her appointments if it’s allowed in your area. Talk to other partners and find out what was helpful for them. Find a reliable, scientifically proven source of information and learn about each trimester and how mom and baby are changing. Learn about possible complications. Beware of Dr. Internet. The thing about internet information is that you can find so-called “evidence” to support any opinion that will be represented as fact, not opinion. Around 32-34 weeks, you can take a Mama Coach prenatal class together. They are offered at convenient times like nights and weekends and you can schedule a private, personalized class or join a group session. Your Mama Coach registered nurse is a reliable source of information along with empathy and no judgement. The Mama Coach website, Instagrams, and Facebook pages are a source of so much free, evidence based information in bite size doses. Check out a free workshop or a live question and answer session.
You’ve made your first leap into being a supportive partner! Don’t forget to follow up with the other 2 parts of the partner prep series- “How to Support Your Partner During Labor” and “How to Support Your Partner After Baby Arrives.”