Pregnancy is a good time for couples to work on nurturing healthy relationships. Strengthening your relationship now can help you manage the transition to the joys and challenges of parenthood.
Pregnant women’s feelings and healthy relationships
When you’re pregnant, the extra hormones in your body can cause lots of emotional ups and downs. You’re also adjusting to a major change in your life, so it isn’t surprising if you and your partner are feeling emotional. There are physical changes too, which affect how well you feel and how you feel about your body.
If you’re an expectant mum, you might feel:
- more vulnerable and tired than usual and in need of extra support
- more interested and involved in the pregnancy than your partner
- less – or more – interested in sex than you used to be.
You might discover that your partner doesn’t feel the connection with the unborn baby as strongly as you do. If this is a concern for you, it might help to know that this often changes as pregnancy progresses. As your baby makes its presence felt – with kicks and movements and a growing bump – your partner will probably get more interested.
If you and your partner feel differently about the pregnancy, it can affect your relationship. But it’s likely your feelings will become more alike as you move through different stages of the pregnancy.
Pregnancy experiences that can affect relationships
You and your partner might feel really excited about the birth of your baby. But it’s common for you to go through some strains in your relationship because of the changes that pregnancy brings.
Here are some things that often affect pregnant couples’ relationships:
- The shift in focus to include another person in your relationship might cause some tension between you.
- Either you or your partner might be worried about having a child – for example, you might be worried about the timing of the pregnancy, its effect on your career or the loss of your independence.
- You or your partner might worry about how you’ll manage financially once the baby is born.
- One of you might want more or less sex than the other.
- Your feelings about yourself and your changing shape might affect both you and your partner.
These feelings and experiences are new for both of you, so it’s normal for you to sometimes feel confused and unsure about what’s going on with your partner. If you can talk together openly about how you feel – good and bad – and what you expect, it can help to clear up misunderstandings, strengthen your relationship and avoid disappointments and conflict.
Pregnancy is a time when family violence can begin. If family violence already happens in a relationship, sometimes it gets worse during pregnancy. If you experience violence in your relationship, speak to your doctor or midwife – they’ll give you the support you need to be safe.
Tips for healthy relationships during pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time for nurturing relationships, because of the emotional and physical changes that you’re both going through and the new roles that you’re thinking about.
Communication is an important way of nurturing healthy relationships in pregnancy:
Talk to each other about how you both feel about being pregnant and what’s to come – both the positives and negatives. Try to talk in a way that explains your views rather than blames your partner.
- Talk about your hopes and dreams for your family and what rituals and traditions are important to you both.
- Talk about your individual parenting styles. If your styles turn out to be different, you might need to work on solving problems together with negotiation and compromise.
- Be open and honest about your sexual needs to avoid misunderstandings.
Communicating with your partner is a skill that takes time, patience and practice. If you’re experiencing a lot of difficulties or arguments during pregnancy, relationship counselling might help improve your communication.
Practical preparations can also help you handle the impact of pregnancy and new parenthood on your relationship. Here are some ideas:
- Go to antenatal classes together. Some hospitals, birth centres and private practitioners also run special birth classes for dads, partners and even grandparents.
- Consider getting some help with managing your money if you’re worried about the cost of having a baby.
- Talk about practicalities like how you’ll make time for yourself and time for your partner and how you’ll share household tasks now and after the baby is born.