If you (or your partner) are or ever have been pregnant, you know how exciting this is. It can be the most magical and mind-blowing time.
But expecting a baby does have its downsides.
I won’t get into all the gory details here, but suffice it to say it can be challenging at times.
From fears about becoming a parent and questions about how your life will change, to the physical symptoms and hormonal changes, pregnancy can be as stressful as it is wonderful. Even the most level-headed woman can decompensate into an emotional mess.
Expecting a baby: Common relationships problems and solutions
Pregnancy has the potential to create strain in your relationship. Here are some common issues that can arise:
Pre-natal depression. This can range from mood swings, to full-blown depression. Partners can become confused, and communications get strained. Usually this will work itself out over time, but sometimes couples need to consciously help themselves through it. Here are some suggestions:
- Partners help immensely when they make a commitment to non-judgement. Remember, it’s normal! And if you judge it, you will both get stuck.
- Both of you remember: the mother-to-be can’t control the hormones that are ruling her body during pregnancy! The the best solution to this problem is to keep an open mind, have a lot of patience, and keep communicating.
- Partners are highly encouraged to pamper their pregnant partner! This includes allowing her to vent and cry on your shoulder. Most of the time, this passes by the third trimester as the birth of your baby grows closer.
- If the mood swings become severe and debilitating for a period of time, seek professional help. There are safe approaches to depression during pregnancy that are very effective.
Decrease in Intimacy. Many women feel undesirable when pregnant, and don’t want to be seen naked or be intimate. And some fathers fear they will harm the baby during sex, which can make his partner think he doesn’t find her attractive any more.
- Mates need to remind her how beautiful she is. Pamper her, kiss her belly, give her massages, bring her water.
- If you have a partner that is afraid of hurting the baby, read some books on pregnancy or talk to a doctor to get informed. This is a solvable hurdle!
Pregnant women get a lot of attention. Some non-pregnant partners can get jealous or resentful of the attention she is getting, or feel insignificant in comparison. Simple ways to solve this are:
- Include the non-pregnant partner in all the OB/GYN visits so they can be a part of the process, especially the ultrasound if you are getting one.
- Invite them to the baby showers! Traditionally, baby showers are for women, but including husbands is much more common these days. This brings a sense of togetherness in the pregnancy experience, where both partners are considered significant contributors to this new life.
Lack of understanding. Pregnant partners can feel misunderstood, accusing their partners of “not knowing what it’s like.” If there is tension in the relationship, it can feel lonely for her to be supporting a life without empathy from her partner.
- Share! It is so crucial to share feelings of insecurities, fear, panic, and stress during this time, because holding it in will make it worse. If you are feeling angry and triggered, take some time to learn some non-confrontational communication techniques to talk about things.
- Keep in mind that stress is potentially harmful to your baby (they feel what you feel). So make an effort to regain closeness even if you are irritable.
- If it’s not possible to gain the understanding and closeness you deserve, seek support from friends, engage in positive self talk, and just focus on yourself and the baby for now. Take care of yourself!
Financial burdens. Many couples ask: “How will we afford a baby? Where should we live? What about schools?” Also, conversations around parenting arise, and can highlight differences in ideas about child-rearing. Here are the best things to remember during these times:
- Don’t freak out: You have years to save for the costly things you need!
- Babies don’t need that much stuff. Baby merchandise is a huge industry, and most of it is unnecessary. You don’t even need a changing table. For an infant, your costs consist of bottles, diapers, baby clothes, baby food, formula, and a sling. Many of these things you can get as baby gifts. Create a baby registry to specify what you need.
- There are awesome second hand stores offering clothing, strollers, high chairs etc. Find out where these are in your area. Babies grow out of their clothes so quickly, it is not cost effective to buy them brand new except for special occasions. Accept hand-me-downs and apply for whatever government funded agencies have to offer for new parents.
- Try not to take in the whole picture. Just take in one piece of the puzzle at a time, focusing on what you need in the moment, not three years from now.
- To assuage fears about the future, start a savings plan. Even if you can only put in a few dollars a week, over sixteen or eighteen years you will be amazed at how much you have saved for your child’s material needs as they grow older.
Expecting a Baby! Tried and Tested Tips:
- Remember, you will find your own way. You can listen to everyone’s advice, and read what you can, but each experience is unique. Don’t get too attached to how it is supposed to be. It is what it is for you. Keep an open mind, have faith, and love yourself for where ever you are in the process.
- Love each other. It is the greatest gift you can give your child even if unborn. Research has shown that babies absorb the bio-chemistry of their mother, and thus will feel her sense of well-being.
- Get enough sleep. Everything seems so much worse when you are tired, so don’t even try to keep the same hours you did before becoming pregnant.
- Make time for each other. It is easy to become distracted and neglect putting time into your relationship.
- Communicate. Express how you both are feeling, and don’t just talk about the baby.
- Make love. Physical intimacy is a necessary part of the marriage relationship, so don’t neglect each other. Even if you have been advised to abstain due to medical reasons, make sure you express your love for each other in other ways.
- Be understanding. Be considerate and understanding with each other during this time of transition, don’t be self-centered be relationship centered.
- Pray. Pregnancy can be a time of worry and concern. Perhaps you are concerned about how you will cope as parents, or how you will manage financially. Remember that sometimes things are bigger than you. The way is not always seen ahead of time.
- Address marital conflicts before baby arrives. Issues that spark small disagreements before baby comes can cause all-out arguments when you add stress and sleep deprivation to the equation. Couples counseling is a great way to prevent tensions and iron out some things before baby arrives.
- Protect yourself from high-stress situations at this time. If possible, put off changing jobs or moving to a new home around the time baby is due. Many couples buy a house when they’re expecting, and that is actually the worst time. Wait at least six months or whenever you resume some sense of a daily routine before taking on a new project or financial obligation.
- Setting limits. This is a great time to get good at this, because once you have a baby you will always be setting limits–either with others who think they know best, or with your child as they grow up. Limit setting should include visits from relatives out of obligation. A nonstop stream of house guests can challenge any marriage, but more so now than ever. Agree to time limits, communicate them to visitors and stick with those limits.
- Talk to other new parents. This cannot be overstated. Join a childbirth education class or pregnant mom support group. These connections will be there for you when the baby is born. To be stuck in the house with a newborn for weeks on end can make both of you feel out of touch with the world and resentful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other new parents who are in your neighborhood.
- Adjust to the family bed. If you are doing a family bed, this has many advantages. But if you go the co-sleeping route, make sure you find other comfortable places in the house for cuddling, sleep, and sex.
- If the road gets rocky, seek help. Don’t wait until you’re on the verge of divorce to talk with a marriage counselor. Sometimes just a few sessions with a qualified therapist can open clogged lines of communication. For a referral to a licensed counselor in your area, contact the National Association of Social Workers at (800) 638-8799.
Remember, expecting a baby is such a gift! If you wake up every day and remind yourself of this, all the stresses pale in comparison.
It’s scary, but it’s also a wondrous and amazing time in your lives. Don’t waste it on problems that can easily be resolved.
And fasten your seat belt, your ride has just begun!