By Raising Children Network
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Many couples’ relationships are strengthened through the joys of sharing pregnancy and building a family. Some are not. There are ways you can work on your relationship to make sure pregnancy is a positive experience for you both.

Pregnancy is smooth sailing for many couples, with both partners excited and happy about how their relationship will evolve with the birth of the child. Other couples find that this time of great change also raises issues to be worked through.

A number of things can affect the dynamic of the relationship, including the pregnant woman occasionally feeling:

  • more vulnerable and tired than usual and in need of extra support
  • a greater need than her partner to talk about the pregnancy
  • less interested in sex than she used to, or more interested in sex than she used to.

If you’re the pregnant partner, you might even discover (and be shocked by) the fact that your partner doesn't feel the connection with the unborn baby as strongly as you do. This is likely to change as your pregnancy progresses. Your partner can't feel the hormonal changes that already make you feel so intensely in touch with your baby. But as your baby makes its presence felt a bit more – with kicks and moves and a growing bump – your partner will probably become more interested.

If you both feel differently about the pregnancy it can also affect your relationship. But it’s likely your feelings will become more alike as you move through different stages of the pregnancy.

Other things that might impact on your relationship:

  • The shift in focus to include another person may cause some tension between you.
  • Either you or your partner may be worried about having a child, including concerns about the timing of the pregnancy, its effect on your career or about losing your independence.
  • You or your partner might worry about how you will manage financially once the baby is born.
  • Your individual needs for sex may increase or decrease.
  • A woman’s changing shape and feelings about herself may affect her partner.

If you are both open about how you feel – good and bad – and what you expect, it will help avoid relationship disappointments. There’s no point expecting each other to be mind readers. These feelings and experiences are new for both of you, so there are bound to be some confusions and complications.

Practical tips

  • Talk to each other about how you both feel about being pregnant and what’s to come – both the positives and negatives.
  • Talk about the practicalities of how you would like your relationship to be – how much time you want to spend together, how you will share household tasks now and after the baby is born, what you hope for your new family, and what rituals or traditions are important to you both.
  • Talk about your individual parenting styles and prepare for compromises if your styles are different.
  • Be open and honest about your sexual needs to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Go to prenatal classes together so that you both know what to expect (the hospital where you may be planning to have the baby probably runs prenatal classes). These classes are also a great place for fathers to talk about their experiences and uncertainties with other fathers (perhaps even to find that other men are going through similar things).
  • Get financial counselling if you’re worried about the cost of having a new baby.

Pregnancy is a time when relationships might need to be nurtured, simply because of the emotional and physical changes that you are both going through and the new roles that you are thinking about. If you are experiencing a lot of difficulties or arguments during pregnancy, counselling might help improve your communication.

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  • Last Updated 15-12-2011
  • Last Reviewed 05-05-2006
  • Gottman, J.M. (1999). The marriage clinic: A scientifically based marital therapy. New York: Norton.

    Halford, W.K. (2001).  Brief therapy for couples. New York: Guilford Press.

    Pacey, S. (2004). Couples and the first baby: Responding to the new parents’ sexual and relationship problems. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 19(3), 223-246.