First time dad

There’s no doubt about it, becoming a father is life-changing. Here’s how to deal with the issues and challenges that it brings.

You can be honest about it, dads-to-be. The prospect of fatherhood can be seriously daunting.

When you see that positive on the pregnancy test, you might experience a whole host of emotions including joy and elation; a sense of achievement; feeling annoyed or shocked; fear; resentment; worry; anxiety; disbelief or detachment. (Draper, 2002a; Chin et al, 2011; Forsyth et al, 2011; Kowlessar et al, 2014). And every single one of them (and more) is completely normal.

What to do if you’re feeling out of things

One thing’s for certain, no matter how involved you are in the pregnancy, you can’t experience everything. You can’t feel the baby move inside you and you aren’t the one feeling nauseous at the smell of the fridge. Yet you can find ways to feel more physically connected to things, like:

  • taking the pregnancy test together so it’s shared news
  • going to antenatal appointments and scans together
  • listening to your partner’s anecdotes and observations about being pregnant and asking questions
  • feeling the baby when they move.

    (Draper, 2002a; Draper, 2002b).

Relationship changes

It’s very common to go through changes in your relationship once you have a baby. You might feel:

  • closer to your partner
  • like you are now a family unit
  • as if you have a shared goal in life
  • a greater appreciation or love for your partner
  • like you have less time as a couple and that this is causing problems in your relationship
  • like you are less intimate with your partner
  • an increase in arguments or disagreements, which is important to note as it can be a risk factor in paternal postnatal depression.

    (Easter and Newburn, 2014)

New dad worries and solutions for them

Relationship problems

For practical reasons like breastfeeding, your partner might now stay home with the baby while you go out to work. You might not have had such ‘traditional’ roles before (Twenge et al, 2003; Katz-Wise et al, 2010). Discuss who each partner expects will do the various household and childcare tasks and why (Brotherson, 2016).

Your partner may also feel like they end up doing more work, whether it’s paid, unpaid or both (Gjerdingen and Center, 2004). As for you, you might feel outside of the dynamic between your partner and your baby.

"Try discussing what you both expect to be doing and divide out the tasks fairly."

To help things improve, discuss the roles you’re taking on and your expectations of parenthood (Brotherson, 2016). If you had expected things to be different, say so. See if you can list the tasks and work out a better solution or split them more evenly (Brotherson, 2016).

Towards the end of pregnancy, lend support by helping more with household tasks. Try helping with heavy tasks to ease the strain on your partner’s back. Cooking meals might help your partner if they feel nauseous at the smell of food (Brotherson, 2016; NHS Choices, 2017).

For more advice on keeping your relationship strong during the transition to parenthood, you could check out the relationship charity Relate. They have a range of articles about new parents and relationships.

Money worries

Lots of people worry about money when they have a young baby. You might have lost one income and spent a lot buying baby things, childcare and treats for when you’re both tired. It might help to look at what benefits you're entitled to and start planning your budget as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant (Brotherson, 2007). The Money Advice Service also has information to help you manage your finances when you're having a baby.

Lifestyle changes

A lot changes when you have a baby. One of the main things that change is your habits. Eating healthily to support your partner to have a healthy pregnancy is good, and so is cutting down drinking for the same reason.

If you’re a smoker, pregnancy is the moment to quit so you have plenty of time before the baby arrives. Get advice on how to stop smoking here.

This page was last reviewed in April 2018.

Further information

Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

 

Brotherson SE. (2007) From partners to parents: Couples and the transition to parenthood. The International Journal of Childbirth Education; 22(2):7-12. Available from: [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Brotherson SE. (2016) Tips for a Couples Health Transition from Partners to Parents. Available from: https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/kids-family/bright-beginnings-2-tips-for-a-couples-healthy-transition-from-partners-to-parents/fs604.pdf [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Chin R, Daiches A, Hall P. (2011) A qualitative exploration of first-time fathers' experiences of becoming a father. Community Practitioner; 84(4):19-23. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21941706 [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Draper J. (2002a) It's the first scientific evidence: men's experience of pregnancy confirmation. Journal of Advanced Nursing; 39(6):563-570. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12207754 [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Draper J. (2002b) It was a real good show: the ultrasound scan, fathers and the power of visual knowledge. Sociology of Health & Illness; 24(6). [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Easter A, Newburn M. (2014) Fathers find more ‘family time’ means less ‘couple time’: how relationships change for new parents. NCT Perspectives, 24, 15-16. Available from: https://www.nct.org.uk/sites/default/files/relateddocuments/Fathersfindmorefamilytimemeanslesscoupletime-howrelationshipschangefornewparents.pdf [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Forsyth C, Skouteris H, Wertheim EH, Paxton SJ, Milgrom J. (2011) Men's emotional responses to their partner's pregnancy and their views on support and information received. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; 51(1):53-56. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2010.0124. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21299509 [Accessed 25th Mar 2017].

Gjerdingen DK, Center BA (2004). First-time parents’ postpartum changes in employment, child care, and housework responsibilities. Social Science Research; 34: 103-116.

Harwood K, McLean N, Durkin K. (2007) First-time mothers’ expectations of parenthood: What happens when optimistic expectations are not matched by later experiences? Developmental Psychology; 43(1): 1–12.

Katz-Wise SL, Priess HA, Hyde JS. (2010) Gender-role attitudes and behavior across the transition to parenthood. Developmental Psychology; 46(1): 18-28.

Kowlessar O, Fox JR, Wittkowski A. (2014) The pregnant male: a metasynthesis of first-time fathers’ experiences of pregnancy. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology; 33(2): 106-127. doi: 10.1080/02646838.2014.970153

NHS (2015) Vagina changes after childbirth. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/vagina-changes-after-childbirth/ (Accessed July 2018)

NHS Choices. (2017). Pregnancy, birth and beyond for dads and partners. Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/dad-to-be-pregnant-partner/

Twenge JM, Campbell WK, Foster CA. (2003) Parenthood and marital satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Marriage and Family; 65: 574-583.

Wee KY, Skouteris H, Pier C, Richardson B, Milgrom J. (2011) Correlates of ante- and postnatal depression in fathers: A systematic review. Journal of Affective Disorders; 130: 358-377. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.06.019

 

Further reading

Bender SS, Sveinsdóttir E, Fridfinnsdóttir H. (2018) You stop thinking about yourself as a woman. An interpretive phenomenological study of the meaning of sexuality for Icelandic women during pregnancy and after birth. Midwifery; 2018;62:14-19. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2018.03.009.

Relate (ND) How to maintain a healthy relationship after a baby has been born. Available at : https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-family-life-and-parenting/new-parents/how-maintain-healthy-relationship-after-baby-has-been-born (Accessed July 2018)

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