Pregnancy, birth and beyond for Dads and partner

Supporting your pregnant partner

If you’re the partner of someone who is pregnant, the closer the two of you are, the more you’ll be able to share the experience of pregnancy and birth.

The early weeks

In the early weeks (up to around 14 weeks) pregnancy can cause vomiting and morning sickness. Certain smells and tastes might make your partner feel nauseous, and she may want to sleep more.

Your partner might be irritable at times. After around 14 weeks, many people find that much of their energy returns.

The later weeks of pregnancy

Towards the end of pregnancy (around 27 to 40 weeks) the baby can feel very heavy. The tiredness and irritability of the early weeks may return, and your partner may start to feel worried or frightened about the birth.

If your partner is anxious, encourage them to talk about it to the midwife, to you or to family or friends.

Practical support

2 of the ways you can help your partner are:

  • cooking – in the early months the smell of food cooking can make some pregnant women feel sick
  • carrying heavy shopping – carrying can put a lot of strain on their back, so do the shopping yourself or together

Let your partner know you are willing to help in any way you can.

The basic health advice is just as important for you as it is for your partner:

  • eating well is much easier if you’re doing it together – start picking up healthy food habits you’ll want to pass on to your child, and make sure you know what foods to avoid in pregnancy
  • cigarette smoke is dangerous for babies, so if you’re a smoker, get advice on how to stop smoking – if you continue to smoke, do not smoke near your partner
  • if your partner is worried about the pregnancy, offer to join them when they go to their antenatal appointment, or ask them about it when they get home
  • be there if your partner has a pregnancy ultrasound scan and see your baby on the screen – if extra tests are needed, your support is especially important

Antenatal classes and labour

Find out about antenatal classes for couples, or partners’ evenings. The more you know about labour, the more you’ll be able to help.

Most people stay with their partner during labour, but it’s important that you’re both happy about this.

Find out what happens in labour and what’s involved in being a birth partner.

If you prefer not to be present, talk and listen to how your partner feels. A friend or relative could be a birth partner instead.

Talk about what you both expect in labour, and talk about the birth plan. Fill it in together so that you know what your partner wants and how you can help them achieve it.

Be supportive if your partner changes their mind during labour. Be flexible – the health of your partner and the baby is the most important thing, so birth plans sometimes have to change.

Your feelings

Just because your partner is the one carrying the baby does not mean their pregnancy has no impact on you. Whether the pregnancy has been planned for months or years, or is unexpected, you’ll probably feel a range of emotions.

A baby means new responsibilities that you may not feel ready for, whatever your age. You and the mum-to-be may have mixed feelings about the pregnancy. It’s normal for both of you to feel like this.

The first pregnancy will change your life and change can be frightening, even if it’s something you’ve been looking forward to.

Bringing mum and baby home

You may find that relatives and friends are able to help in the early days so that your partner can rest and feed the baby. This is especially useful after a difficult birth.

It’s a good idea to have a week or so off work if you can.

In the first few weeks: 

  • you could look after the baby so that your partner can get a good rest each day
  • take over the housework, but do not feel you must keep the place spotless
  • try to use this time to get to know your baby – learn to change nappies and bathe your baby as well as cuddling and playing with them
  • if your baby is breastfed, you could bring your partner a snack and a drink while feeding; if bottle feeding, you could sterilise and make up the bottles and share the feeding.