How Can Partners Maintain Healthy Relationships During Pregnancy?

Pregnancy is a time of great change, not only physically, but for the relationships involved with the baby that will soon be born. One of the most important relationships a mother-to-be can have is the one with her partner, with whom she will share her worries and hopes for the future. Her significant other is the person who she wants by her side for the changes and challenges, and upon whom she wants to rely after the birth. While many of the concerns focus on the mom-to-be, there are also issues that the partner faces and experiences, which are just as valid and important to the relationship. Maintaining a healthy relationship between partners not only provides for a healthier and better pregnancy, but is essential for remaining committed partners after the labor and delivery.

Tips for Keeping A Healthy Relationship

There are many ways to nurture relationships between significant others during pregnancy that can address the needs of both partners. Even though the focus is often on the pregnant mother, care needs to be taken to account for the emotional challenges her partner is also facing.

Maintain and modify special traditions – If the partners have a tradition of golfing together twice a month, it is important to keep this as long as the pregnancy allows. When things become too physically difficult to do during pregnancy, it is valuable not to completely end the tradition, but to instead modify it. Maybe this means golfing 9 holes instead of 18, using a cart instead of walking, or going to the mini-golf course instead. Keeping special traditions gives partners opportunities to continue to grow their bonds and focus on their specific and special relationship.

Set aside time for conversations – So many times partners face struggles when they stop making efforts to communicate. Misunderstandings can be avoided when both partners make a commitment to have regular check-ins with each other in quiet, unrushed circumstances. One partner might be worrying about financial implications of the pregnancy, and the other is concerned about which color to paint the nursery. These are both legitimate concerns. Partners should set aside time each evening to talk and listen, making sure to take turns expressing worries, plans, or questions.

Don’t lose focus – The partner of a mom-to-be can often feel left out as the pregnant mom races ahead with a new focus on the baby. It is extremely important that moms-to-be give attention to their partners and honor the relationship that has already been established. She can do this by planning special date nights, giving her partner a special token gift of appreciation, or encouraging him to explore a hobby in which he has shown interest.

Keep the intimacy – Relationships often suffer during pregnancy as the physical intimacy levels or experiences change. Sometimes these changes happen because of physical requirements (change in size or comfort levels), medical necessity (an obstetrician places limits or restrictions on physical intimacy for the sake of a healthy pregnancy), and emotional reasons (changes in self-esteem). Physical intimacy is often a key ingredient in relationships, and when it is changed, can have negative impacts that pull at the close ties that once existed between significant others. Partners can help keep their intimate relationships healthy by:

  • Checking with the obstetrician for any concerns related to the well-being of the baby
  • Talking with each other about concerns, comforts, and needs
  • Respecting the body changes that the pregnant woman is going through during pregnancy
  • Finding new ways to express and receive their physical needs

Work as a team – As a woman goes through physical and emotional changes of pregnancy, she might become unsure of herself and her ability to be a good mother. Significant others might worry about their own abilities to parent as well, or about how these changes will impact the relationships. The combinations of these stresses can either pull couples apart or give them goals to work toward as a team. The following ideas can help keep couples working together, having fun together, and learning together.

  • Read parenting books together.
  • Find a babysitter or two before the baby is born so that date night can happen.
  • Make 1, 5, and 10 year goals as a couple – focusing on the couple part of the equation. This might include things like renewing wedding vows, owning a home, taking a trip, or learning how to ski together.

The changes and challenges of pregnancy do not mean that couples have to lose who they were together, but instead that they can learn how to change together and become an even stronger team.

 

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”