The first trimester can be challenging for dads-to-be. Read about coming to terms with new responsibilities, lifestyle changes and worrying about your partner’s health.
Dealing with the concept of fatherhood can be quite a shift. Pregnancy is split into three trimesters, each of which represent the main stages of development for baby and mum. As well as physical changes, each trimester is associated with particular emotions for mum. Dads-to-be will also face different emotions along the way so it’s important to keep talking to each other about how you're feeling.
There may be few outward signs that your partner is pregnant. However, internally there is a huge amount going on. From the point at which the egg is fertilised, a woman’s body is being bombarded by hormones and it is helpful for dads to be aware of some of the changes she may be experiencing. Here are some ways to help:
- Tiredness - be sympathetic to this lack of energy and be guided by your partner about what you can do to help. Many couples share basic household tasks, but it may be that you have to take on a greater share during this time.
- Diminishing social life - her social life may start to tail off as she has less energy for going out, try and be around for company and to get involved with planning the pregnancy.
- Morning sickness - although not all women experience this many do, and the bad news is that it can come at any point during the day or night. The sickness is not harmful to the baby and generally clears up by the end of the first trimester. You can help by being comforting or bringing her a glass of water or whatever works for her in terms of easing the sickness.
- Lifestyle changes - now that your partner is pregnant, certain lifestyle changes will come into play. As well as being advised to stop smoking and drinking, her diet might change and you can be supportive by trying to adopt her diet rather than indulging in the foods that she may be missing.
- Mood swings - emotionally, she may be experiencing ups and downs as the hormones kick in, so try and be understanding about sudden mood swings. Don’t take it personally if she's irritable or anxious. Patience and understanding will really help.
As a dad-to-be you're probably also on an emotional roller coaster as the countdown to parenthood progresses. Share your thoughts with your partner about becoming a dad and, if this is your first baby, speak to friends who already have children. Their experiences can be really helpful and reassuring.
Once the pregnancy is confirmed, you need to get into the medical system by finding a midwife. You may do this by contacting one directly or through your GP. Find out how it works in your area.
The booking-in appointment is the first antenatal check of the pregnancy, in which your partner will meet a midwife who will carry out health checks and talk through your options for antenatal care and giving birth. As it's the first meeting with a health professional, you may want to attend. It will be a chance for you to ask any questions that you may have. The midwife may want to know about your health, background and lifestyle as well.
If you decide to attend antenatal appointments, ask any questions you have as well. And don't forget you are also legally entitled to take time off work to attend up to two antenatal appointments with your pregnant partner.
The midwife will provide information about health, exercise and diet during pregnancy, as well as pointing you towards antenatal classes. Dads are welcome at these classes and you may be surprised at how many attend. These classes are meant for both mum and dad, and will be invaluable for you in your role as a supportive partner and parent-to-be.
Having the booking-in appointment before you are 10 weeks pregnant gives you time to consider your screening options. You don’t have to have any of the tests that are offered to you, including the Down’s syndrome screening test, which can be part of the 12-week dating scan. Before you make a decision about any tests, it's important that you consider the implications and discuss them as a couple.
The 12-week dating scan is the first chance to see your baby and can be an incredibly emotional moment. But it may also be a little frustrating as the baby is still tiny and not easy to identify. This scan will also check the baby’s measurements to confirm your estimate of when the baby is due.
From now on, everything is going to feel a lot more real, not least because you may feel comfortable about telling people that you're going to be a dad. It’s a personal decision when you start to let people know. Up to 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and around 80% occur during the first 12 weeks, so many people wait until this stage before spreading the news.
Remember, it is quite common for women to experience some bleeding in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. Your partner can consult her midwife or GP about it, but provided she has no other symptoms, she will probably be reassured that, in all likelihood, the bleeding will stop quickly and there shouldn’t be anymore. A heavy loss of blood, particularly if your partner is passing clots and has low backache, could mean a miscarriage though. In this case, she should see her doctor immediately.
Page last updated: 1 October 2014
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.