By Raising Children Network
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Man alone in doctor's waiting room credit (c) iStockphoto.com/Urilux
 
Some men feel a bit left out or like they don’t ‘fit in’ to the pregnancy experience.

Left out of pregnancy?

While your partner is pregnant, you might go through many different reactions and emotions. Some can be harder to deal with than others.

Feeling left out or unimportant is a pretty common feeling in pregnancy. You might even feel that your partner isn’t paying you as much attention as she used to. But having a baby growing inside you is an amazing thing, and it’s normal for her to feel absorbed in the experience. She isn’t rejecting you.

‘Left out’ at pregnancy appointments 

Some of your experiences with pregnancy services might not be what you expect.

Although services are getting better at including men in antenatal care, sometimes the system forgets that men are interested and want to be part of things. It’s easy to feel invisible if a health professional talks as if your partner is the only one expecting a baby.

At the antenatal appointments, there was a general sense of ‘Mate, you’ve done your bit, now leave it to us’. Being a women’s hospital, it was all set up for and focused on the woman. At some appointments, there was no seat for me, and finding the men’s toilets was a challenge. It felt a bit like when you walk into a pub and everyone’s a local and you’re not. Overall, it was a positive experience though. When it came to the birth, I felt included and like I could play as much of a part as I wanted.
– Milton, father of one

Jealousy, aggression and violence

For some men, feeling left out can trigger stronger reactions like being jealous or getting angry.

Anger is a normal human emotion – everyone feels angry at some stage. But anger can be negative, especially if it happens a lot or it gets out of control.

Losing your temper when you’re angry can frighten and stress your partner. Stress can increase the cortisol going through the placenta to your baby, and this is bad for your baby. It can put your baby at a higher risk of premature birth, low birth weight and delays in development.

If you think that feeling left out might lead to anger or hitting, get help. You can call MensLine on 1300 789 978.

Handling your feelings

If you’re feeling left out, tell someone – your partner, a friend or a family member.

Explaining what’s on your mind to your partner can make you feel heard and counted as being part of the picture. Open and honest communication can give you both the chance to mend any hurt feelings or clear up misunderstandings. Doing this earlier, rather than later, can help stop your feelings from building up.

If you know another dad or expectant dad, you could ask him about his experience. Did he feel left out at times during his partner’s pregnancy? Was he given any advice that helped him through?

Positive thinking and positive self-talk can be effective ways of dealing with these feelings too. They increase your positive feelings and, as a result, your ability to cope.

For example, you could say to yourself, ‘She’s not ignoring me – she’s just really excited about the baby’. You could try to release any stress and tension through exercise, deep breathingmuscle relaxation, yoga and other activities that you enjoy or that help you feel relaxed.

If your partner is really interested in looking at baby stuff or baby names, you might find it helps to join her in those activities. It might feel strange at first, but if you push past that and get involved, you could start to feel differently.

Things you can do

  • If you think that feeling left out could turn into anger or hitting, get help.
  • If you’re feeling left out, let your partner know and give her an opportunity to include you. You could also chat with a family member, friend or other expectant dad, or you could check out our online forum for expectant dads.
  • If you feel like you’re on the outside of the pregnancy experience, don’t wait to be included – join in! Spending time looking at baby clothes or furniture will also give you a chance to spend time with your partner.
  • Use positive self-talk and do some relaxation exercises or other activities that help you to release stress and tension.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 09-08-2016
  • Acknowledgements

    This content has been developed in collaboration with Tim O’Leary, antenatal educator and therapist; Dr Richard Fletcher, Convenor, Fatherhood Research Network; and Dr Rebecca Giallo, Senior Research Fellow, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

    The names of men quoted in this article have been changed for privacy reasons.