A Shout out for Dads- Keep Him Included in Your Pregnancy

By IMI blog contributor, Amanda Hammond

As pregnant moms we tend to take charge of our bodies and our babies much like we are known for in our weddings.  What can a man possibly know about prenatal yoga positions or birth classes?  Will he even care if the baby carrier fits him?  Here’s the thing- it’s not for us to decide how involved he wants to be.  He may very well be dying to be included in this process with you. 

Let’s start with the biological side of things. When he hears the news, his cortisol shoots up for about 6 weeks and then lowers back down to normal levels.  The next major changes happen in the last month of pregnancy where his sex hormones change.  A few weeks before baby arrives, Dad’s testosterone levels reduce by a third.  He is likely to be more gentle and easy going so this is a great time to include him if you haven’t already.  Take advantage of his newfound sensitive side.  He might want to rub your feet or cook you a healthy meal.  He might want to help design the nursery.  Let him help!  Some men have such hormonal shifts that they have what is known as sympathetic pregnancy.  They can bloat, cramp and feel moody just like we can.  This condition has been scientifically proven and has been observed in all cultures. 

Once baby is born Dad is more likely than ever to become a complete mush ball.  His estrogen naturally increases, and with skin-to-skin contact, he can feel that wonderful oxytocin rush just like we can.  This is the amazing hormone that intoxicates as soon as we hold our babies.   We have him in this altered hormonal state for about six weeks after baby arrives.  Then his hormones return to normal, but if he has been included in the pregnancy, he is extremely likely to stay a mush ball when it comes to his child.  This is what we want.  Aside from Daddy’s cute hormonal changes, there are huge emotional and familial benefits to involving him in your prenatal affairs.

 In 2007 the First Nine Months of Fatherhood took place.  Focusing on prenatal father involvement, this national conference was the first of its kind. Through their collaborated research a report was published which showed the connection between prenatal father involvement and family wellness. Believe it or not, Dad can motivate us to make healthy choices while pregnant such as quitting smoking and eating healthier.  Think of him as a cheerleader for Team Mom.  Not only can an involved pregnant dad help us have a healthier pregnancy and healthier baby, but he is statistically more likely to develop a strong attachment with his child.  Studies have shown for years how helpful an involved dad can be to a child’s wellbeing.  Now we see this idea holds true prenatally as well. 

Here are some ways to get Dad involved.

Ask him to help with the nursery. Lord knows you shouldn’t be painting or putting together a crib.  Let him do this.

Invite him to attend prenatal appointments and make sure that your care provider includes him.  There is no doubt he’d love to hear the heartbeat or feel the baby too.

Invite him to walk or do yoga with you a few times a week.  This gets him directly involved with your health and wellbeing as well as the baby’s.

Sign up for Bradley Birth classes.  This method is focused on husband-coached childbirth.  This makes him your equal as far as preparing for birth is concerned.  You will spend romantic nights together filling out your Bradley homework.  Awww! 

Involve him in the creating of your birth plan.  It is his birth too. 

Give him the task of researching circumcision if he’s in favor of it.  He may change his mind…

Ask him to cook for you.  He will be nourishing both of his babies.  What could be more rewarding than that? 

Assign Dad the role of stocking the changing station.  This will need to be done before baby comes.  Diapers- Check.  Wipes- Check.  Nose plugs- Check.

Dads’ brains and hormones change for this important role, this life change.  They become more like us and less like them.  Consequently most are equipped to handle pregnancy right along with us.  They can attend appointments, ask questions and choose baby bedding too.  There is no question that children benefit from an emotionally available father but now we see the same holds true before they are ever born.  As pregnant women and maternity professionals we must encourage this.

 

 

Sources

Daddy and Baby: The Science of New Fatherhood, expecting and fathering a baby radically changes a man’s brain too, Published June 17, 2011 Victoria Costello www.phychologytoday.com/blog/awakening-psyche/

The First Nine Months of Fatherhood- Report from the First National Conference of Emerging Research and Practice on Prenatal Father Involvement. www.oag.state.tx.us/AG_Publications/pdfs/first9months.pdf

 

About Amanda Hammond

Amanda Hammond, IMI blog contributor,  is the founder of Ready Or Not Baby Planning Services in Wisconsin.

http://www.readyornotbabyplanning.com/

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