The quantity and availability of advice for new dads is virtually inexhaustible. Anybody and everybody who has any experience with pregnancy, labor and delivery, and child rearing feels qualified to offer guidance on how to best approach the miraculous process called pregnancy.
As the father of seven children, and having spent almost seven years working as an OB tech in labor & delivery, the best piece of general advice I can offer is to take it easy. Despite all the information and counsel thrown at a new dad, every pregnancy is different, even in the same woman, and there is no “one size fits all” approach. Power and control are delusions, especially in pregnancy.
Evolving role of dads in pregnancy
Historically, males were relegated to a marginal role with minimal participation during pregnancy. Fortunately, that role has evolved and grown to the point where the importance of the new dad is valued and is no longer taken for granted. With the increased level of importance comes the responsibility for increased levels of communication. A healthy, happy mother tends to make for a healthy, happy baby. Communicating and sharing (both negative as well as positive things) with the mother-to-be is absolutely essential.
Communicating with the obstetrical provider is key to understanding what to expect during the pregnancy, and what the dad-to-be can do to help mother and baby as much as possible. Discuss with the provider things like what to eat during pregnancy, what foods and/or beverages to avoid during pregnancy, and what types and levels of exercise are either encouraged or discouraged during pregnancy. Address issues like spotting during pregnancy, abdominal cramping, and sleep pattern alterations.
If the new dad has any questions for the provider, they may want to write them down prior to visiting the provider, and then write down the responses to those questions. The role of the new dad can be as inclusive as the new parents wish. Accompanying the mother-to-be to OB visits and ultrasound appointments help the father-to-be feel involved and informed.
Birthing classes can be a most helpful adjunct to the inclusion process. Discussing and promulgating a birth plan can also serve to include the new dad in the pregnancy and birthing process. The role of the father during pregnancy is similar to most things in life in that it is what you make of it.
Separating fact from fiction
While researching and investigating the myriad facets of pregnancy, many facts or factoids will come to the surface. As one might expect, there will also be a fair measure of “old wives tales” and falsehoods mixed in. For example, pregnant women can experience nausea and vomiting during pregnancy that is commonly called “morning sickness”. The nausea and vomiting doesn’t have a clock, and doesn’t know what time of day it is. It can come at any hour of the day or night. It may only occur during the first trimester, throughout the entire pregnancy, or not at all.
Another common example would be “sympathy pregnancy” or Couvade’s syndrome. This is where an otherwise healthy male starts to develop physical symptoms usually associated with pregnancy, such as nausea, vomiting, leg cramps, abdominal discomfort, frequent urination, etc. The Mayo Clinic website states that this is not a recognized mental illness or disease, but some research indicates that it is common, and further studies need to be done to ascertain whether it is a physical condition rooted in psychological causes. If in doubt, the new dad will be best served by asking their OB provider to clarify any questions the expecting couple might have.