Pregnancy and you blog

Expectant fathers: Dads need attention, too

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. June 10, 2010

Discussions about pregnancy and childbirth nearly always focus on women, but I think it's time to address another important member of the experience. Expectant fathers, this one's for you.

You don't have pregnancy nausea or vomiting. You can watch an entire movie without pausing to use the bathroom. You don't experience leg cramps, back pain or labor pain — nor do you know the joy of feeling an unborn baby move for the first time.

You probably wish you could help while your partner is vomiting in the bathroom, but holding back her hair or putting a cool washcloth on her forehead may not seem like much. Your feelings might be hurt if the baby seems to be practicing for the World Cup, but then stops moving as soon as you place your hand on your partner's tummy.

During labor, you'll do your best to step up to the plate and hit it out of the park as a labor coach — even though you hate to see the woman you love in pain. You may feel helpless because you want to make it better and just don't know how.

After the baby is born, you may feel lost when it comes to newborn care. After all, babies don't come with directions. You may suffer from sleep deprivation and worry about your new role and responsibilities. You may feel overwhelmed or trapped. You may even experience postpartum depression. If you notice any warning signs of postpartum depression — such as withdrawal, anger, aggression or other behavior changes — seek treatment from a mental health provider. Left untreated, postpartum depression can affect the whole family.

Expectant fathers, I salute you for jumping into the age of sharing pregnancy, attending childbirth classes, and being partners and coaches during labor. It really does beat sitting in a waiting room, drinking coffee and pacing — as expectant fathers used to do. Instead, you're there at Mom's side, welcoming your child into the world. You rock!

June 10, 2010