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Pregnancy Basics for Expectant Dads

Dale Kiefer


If you're a first time expectant father, you may feel like you've somehow slipped into an alternate universe. It's an unsettling place where up is sometimes down and common sense no longer rules the day. Forget routine and predictability -- you're an expecting father now. All bets are off.

Your wife's pregnancy will probably introduce you to some foreign concepts that most women take in stride. To one degree or another, they've been experiencing this since puberty. It's entirely possible that Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is nothing more than nature's way of preparing you and your spouse for the wild ride that is pregnancy.

While you've spent your life learning to rely on logic and reason, women have been learning to go with the flow. Of raging hormones, that is. Even the smoothest, most supernaturally blessed trouble-free pregnancies entail at least some degree of emotional unpredictability and physical discomfort. The best you can do is be prepared for the worst and be fervently grateful for the best.

What to expect and what to do.

Here are a few things you may encounter, and some suggestions about how to deal with them:

Remain calm. Your wife is enduring an unimaginable transformation. She's under assault by unfamiliar sensations ranging from nausea and discomfort to emotional vulnerability on a Herculean scale, even as she's losing her energy and her all-important figure.

She may be sick to her stomach, fatigued all the time, giddy, depressed, ravenous, completely without appetite, glad, mad, sad or just feel bad. Her ankles may swell and her breasts may ache. Her back may hurt and she may even develop new allergies. And, unfortunately, she may secretly blame you for her condition (especially if you show no willingness to commiserate with her). Your job is to calmly commiserate, and resist the urge to dismiss her problems and uncomfortable sensations.

If she's interested in sex, great. It's safe in most cases up until late in the pregnancy. And many men find pregnancy to be a huge turn-on. Conversely, others find it distinctly otherwise. Don't fret. Either is normal. But is she loses all interest, do not pressure her. Now is not the time to focus on your needs.

Be patient. This, above all else, seems to be a man's role during pregnancy and labor. Let's face it, there's little else you can do. Much as you may wish to shoulder some of the burden, there's simply no way you can lug around that 15-pound bowling ball in order to give your wife a moment's relief. The burden is hers to bear alone. Your job is to comfort her in any way you can.

Be informed.

The more you understand about the changes taking place, the better you'll be prepared to comfort your wife. The first and third trimesters are generally the most problematic. For some lucky few, the entire experience is an enchanted breeze. Try not to hate these mythical couples, but know that you're not likely to be one of them. Most couples will encounter any number of challenges. Pregnant women experience a host of frightening and uncomfortable symptoms that simply the normal byproducts of a healthy pregnancy.

For instance, you wife may experience any, none, or all of the following:
Frightening dreams about the baby
Swollen ankles
Mood swings
Frantic concern for the health and safety of the unborn baby
The famous desire for unusual or downright outrageous foods
Changes in appetite
Changes in sexual appetite
Thickening hair or falling-out hair
And even a propensity to burst into tears during commercials featuring babies.

Go with the flow. Provide support and understanding, patience and comfort. And be ready to cheerfully search for sardine ice cream at 3:13 a.m.

Daddy/Baby Bonding Dale Kiefer is a freelance writer living in northern New Jersey with his wife and two young sons. Born in New Jersey some 40 years ago, Dale was raised in Kentucky, where he spent most of his life, graduating from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Biological Sciences. You can see more of Dale's articles at his Suite 101 page devoted to expectant fathers

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Guest Apr 17, 2014 03:22:18 AM ET

My name is leslie. i'm a college student and taking a developmental psychology. i need to interview an expectant father with some questions about becoming a father. here are the following questions that i need right away from someone i don't know for my class: 1) what are your feelings about becoming a father, 2) how have you've been involved in your partner's pregnancy?, 3) what part will you play in your child's pregnancy? what part would you like to play? 4) what do you think being "a good father" means? 5) how will having a child change your life? i need these responses right away for my class and i would appreciate the responses. thank you for your help. thanks, leslie

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Guest Feb 19, 2014 01:02:52 PM ET

Hi. my name is jake. i am 18 years old and unexpectedly found out my girlfriend is most likely pregnant. i am extremely nervous about everything. any hints or tips?

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Jacob Aug 2, 2013 07:09:33 AM ET

I just found out that she's pregnant and i'm really excited but everyone keeps asking why i don't show it. i want to, i just don't know how. how do you even begin to show excitement for a new life? this is my first and i'm not afraid. i think that's the issue because she's terrified about money and my response is always, "we'll figure it out." i think my lack of reaction there is causing pierre to think i'm not excited. plus, she's so emotional that none of my reactions even rate compared to hers for normal things.

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Lindsey Jul 30, 2012 03:37:24 PM ET

Well, where to begin.. i just found out that i am about 6 weeks pregnant. after careful consideration, my boyfriend and i thought we should try to have a baby. all red flags went off in my head, he has a 5 year old son, he's 32 and he lives... well at home... :( not excatly the winner, i know. but like any dumb girl, at 26, i decided, he's ready for this, maybe he'll grow up.... blah blah blah... so the day comes for me to tell him, i'm super excited. i get a pair of baby booties and my pos test, and put them in a shoe box. i tell him i got him shoes, he opens with a smile and quickly the smile fades... his on;y response "i need a drink"... well 2 bottles of wine later and he passes out. i'm so scared that after everything, i might be doing it on my own. i guess the red flags didn't look so bad with rose colored glasses on... :(

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jonathan Jun 21, 2012 03:39:28 AM ET

Go ahead robert whats your question

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Jonathan Jun 21, 2012 03:35:25 AM ET

Hi samantha so yes the best thing to do is to let him mature on his own if you just tell him to or argue to him about it. it just won't work you have to let him feel it inside and think it through that this baby your having is a lot responsibility and that your gonna need a lot of his support and comfort. so as for going to doctor visits and baby shopping as him talk to him about it give him the choice but at the same time letting him know how important for you it is for him to be there. without making it seem like he has to be there by force.

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Ells Aug 4, 2011 11:19:38 AM ET

I am pregnant, but my bf is not able to have sex with me...he is having a hard time with the fact that am pregnant...he is happy, but the sex part has become and issue..he wont touch me or make love to me the way he use to...what do i do? its his first kid, and it came as a shock...

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Paul Apr 18, 2011 10:42:27 PM ET

I think u should let him come around he will just give him time im about to have my second one i was alot like him in my frist one

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samantha Jul 4, 2010 11:26:25 PM ET

Iam 9 weeks pregnant and my current boyfriend (that ive been with for about 5 yrs now) continues to be a little immature. he cares about my needs a great deal but has no idea what i am actually going through. i try to get him to read more into pregnancy and understand my point of view and maybe that will help him understand more and make him a little more aware and mature. i will admit i am pressuring him alot to start to change his ways and "grow up" but they do say "the moment a women is pregnant she becomes a mother and a man becomes a father when he holds his baby''. should i just back off and let him mature on his own since i am early in pregnancy or should i continue to nag his to ''grow up'' (which i think isnt a good idea) just need some advice.

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timothy Feb 19, 2010 04:46:10 AM ET

Me and my soon to be wife are expecting a our first child. there is one problem though i am deploying to afganstain in a few day i also just found out that she was. i am scared for her going though the whole thing alone is there anyway i would be able to help her though the pregnancy being so far way any suggestion on thing i could do would be great full also any website i could go to read on what to do as an expecting father would be awsome getting alot of info from here but i would love more info also thank you again for you help

Andy Aug 19, 2014 05:16:14 PM ET

You're lucky! you'll only have to deal with hardened fighters, determined to kill you and your brothers-in-arms, the rest of us guys have to stay home with our pregnant wives. oh how i envy you!!!

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