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First trimester: Advice for dads to be

In lots of ways, the first trimester is the trickiest. You’re both getting your heads around the news that you’re going to be a parent. Mums to be are fighting the urge to be sick in a meeting when no-one knows they’re pregnant yet. But what about dads to be? Here’s some advice for the challenges.

Baby development: What’s happening during the first trimester?

While you’re not the one who’s always tired and suddenly loves pickled gherkins, you can feel more connected to your baby when you know what’s happening.

So, during the first trimester, the fertilised egg will burrow into the womb lining. By the fourth or fifth week, the initial egg cell forms into three layers. These layers are the breathing and digestive system, the heart and blood vessels, and the brain and the nervous systems (NHS Choices, 2017a).

By the sixth or seventh week, you might see the heart on a vaginal ultrasound scan. The head begins to grow around weeks seven to eight and the embryo will be about 10 mm long (NHS Choices, 2017a, b).

By week nine your baby’s face, hands and feet will be forming and by week 10 you can see them make tiny, jerky movements on an ultrasound scan. At week 11 your baby will have fingernails and by week 12 the placenta will be fully formed (NHS Choices, 2017b). Are we blowing your mind yet?

How your partner might be feeling

The first trimester means a mix of symptoms for women, which can include:

  • Tiredness as hormonal changes can leave them exhausted.

  • Nausea and vomiting. Again, it’s about the hormonal changes. Sickness is common but look out for symptoms of hyperemesis gravidarum, which is severe morning sickness. If your partner can’t keep any food or drink down, she may have this and will need to see her GP.

  • Toilet trips. Again, it’s the hormonal changes.

  • Painful breasts. As they gear up for breastfeeding, your partner’s breasts can become sore.

  • Irritability or mood swings – she may be up and down a lot around now so be patient.

    (NHS Choices, 2017c, d; NHS Choices, 2018a, b, c)

How to help your partner through the first trimester

  • Get the vacuum out. Even if you normally split housework equally, now’s the time for you have to be the one vacuuming under the sofa cushions. Make sure you give your partner the chance to put their feet up during the day.

  • Lift the heavy stuff – pregnant women and heavy lifting don’t go together due to strains on their backs. So take the load off her as much as you can.

  • Encourage good lifestyle choices. You can help your partner to eat more healthily, and make sure you reduce the risk of any infections they might get from foods.

  • Help her to stop smoking, drinking or taking recreational drugs if this is something your partner does.

  • Start cooking – even the smell of food can make some pregnant women feel sick. So you could make the meals to help her avoid those smells. Bring her some dry toast or plain biscuits before she gets out of bed, as well as a big glass of water. Early pregnancy can be a thirsty business.

  • Stay calm – remember that the mood swings are just hormones and will pass soon.

    (NICE, 2008; NHS Choices, 2018a, b)

First time dads: Tips and tricks

  • Speak to friends who’ve had babies for support. Hearing their experiences can be really helpful.

  • Help your partner with the practical stuff. Once you know she’s pregnant, she should visit the GP or midwife who’ll put her on the system for antenatal appointments and a midwife. Oh, and you are legally entitled to take time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments with your pregnant partner.

  • Sign up to antenatal classes. You and your partner can then learn all the practical stuff about pregnancy, labour and birth before the baby arrives.

  • Stay close to your partner – not physically (she’ll probably want a little space) but emotionally. The closer you two are, the more the whole thing will feel like a lovely shared experience.

    (NHS Choices, 2017c; ACAS, 2018)

When do we tell people about the pregnancy?

You might want to tell your family and friends immediately, or wait a while until you both know how you feel. Many people wait until they have had their first ultrasound scan, when they're around 12 weeks pregnant, before they tell people (NHS Choices, 2016b).

This is because an estimated one in eight known pregnancies end in miscarriage. And about three in every four miscarriages happen during the first trimester (NHS Choices, 2018d, e). Keep talking to your partner and find the time that feels right for your both to share your news.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.