There's no doubt about it—pregnancy can be an exciting yet confusing time for a man. If you've already made it through the first eight months, you've gone through cravings, mood swings, morning sickness, maternity clothes, new sex patters, and more. However, this still doesn't quite prepare you for the final month of your partner's pregnancy. Successfully navigating through the last month will allow you to support your partner, understand how they feel, and know what steps to take.
Supporting Your Pregnant Partner
It can be a relief to recognize that the pregnancy process is coming to an end. For your pregnant partner, however, it's not so simple. Understanding how your partner feels is the key to support. By talking to your partner and the rest of your family, you can better understand what's going on.
In the last month of pregnancy, the baby doesn't just keep growing—it also changes position. Your partner can feel like their belly is going to pop. The skin is stretched tight and maternity clothes won't fit as well. This may make your partner feel big, uncomfortable, and/or discouraged. At the same time, the body is also working overtime. Because the baby is growing larger and consuming more energy, your partner will feel drained most of the time.
Here are some things you should know about your partner's experience:
- Moving can be a real effort. The size and position of the baby will make every movement of your partner's body feel like a challenge. Getting up out of a chair, getting into bed, and even walking from the bed to a chair can be difficult.
- Hormones will run wild. Expect your partner to experience many moods. Sometimes they'll be excited and affectionate. Other times, they'll be miserable, tired, snappy, and impatient. Be understanding when your partner goes through these ups and downs.
- Bathroom runs can be frequent. The baby tends to push on your partner's bladder more at the final stage of pregnancy, so they'll need to go to the bathroom a lot. Plan ahead, especially if you are out of the house.
- Anxiety is common. The reality of the impending birth is setting in for you and your partner. That realization can cause anxiety, and cleaning (the "nesting instinct") is likely to occur. Help your partner get the house ready for the new baby and calm her nerves about finances, relatives, becoming a new mom, and other worries.
Responding to Your Partner
A man can make some mistakes if he isn't sensitive to his partner's feelings during the last month of pregnancy. Luckily, he can respond to the number of feelings his partner is experiencing by following his partner's lead, offering relief, and being gentle.
Sometimes your partner will want to talk and cuddle, and other times they will need space. Follow your partner's need to understand their desires, and don't try to impose your attitude on them. It's important to keep feelings of hurt or rejection aside, as the space required is not personal.
There will be times when there is very little you can do to make your partner feel better. Listening and responding to your partner's needs will help throughout the process. You can offer a foot rub, lower back massage, or soft hug.
Practice the Little Things
Be active throughout your partner's pregnancy and keep life simple.
For starters, lower your standards on meals, household chores, and other distractions. You can also prepare meals early in the day for warming up later. Another way to be involved is to go to the doctor with your partner and stay informed about their progress. During the last month, visits to the obstetrician will be more frequent, so you can prepare to join her. This is also an opportunity to ask important medical questions.
- A car seat. This is an important safety measure for you to bring the baby home in.
- An overnight bag. Your partner's overnight bag may include a nightgown, toiletry supplies (toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, deodorant, etc), a change of clothes, a nursing bra, and more.
- Light snacks. Small cans of fruit juice, crackers, and raisins can be a welcome respite from what the hospital provides. You can also bring energy bars, fruit, and sandwiches.
- Music. Many moms enjoy soothing songs for the labor process and for after the baby is born.
- A camera. You'll be glad to have it with you right after the birth for a first family picture.
- Money. Cash and a credit card is good to have on hand for any needed items that come up, like food, parking, and more.
- Electronics. Bring your phone, charger, and other items like an address book so you can communicate with your friends and family directly from the hospital.
- Comfort items. Make sure you have massage items like hot and cold packs, which can really help with pain.
- Hospital route. Ensure that your GPS is set up for your trip to the hospital. You may also want to write down directions in case the GPS has issues when the time comes.
Understand Contractions and Labor
During the last month, your partner will begin to have contractions. Contractions can be difficult to describe, but often fall into one of four categories:
- Braxton Hicks. These contractions are natural preparation for labor—like getting the uterine muscles ready for the big event. They tend to surprise your partner, but are generally more alarming than they are painful. Additionally, they are irregularly spaced which differentiates them from other contractions.
- Pre-Labor. During the last few weeks of pregnancy, Braxton Hicks contractions will start to become a little more intense, and there will be times when they will be regular and a few at a time. This is the beginning of the process of softening the cervix in preparation for real labor.
- False Labor. If contractions start becoming painful in the lower abdomen, are irregular over time, and eventually stop, then your partner is experiencing a false labor.
- True Labor. When the contractions are regular, rhythmic, and painful or uncomfortable, your partner is likely in real labor. At this stage, begin start timing the contractions. You will want to record how far they are from the start of one to the start of the next, and how long they last. The doctor will tell you when he or she wants you to head to the hospital, and they may say something like, "Leave when the contractions last at least a minute and are ten minutes apart."