A Father’s Primer for Pregnancy, Part One
( In this two part article series, new fathers-to-be are introduced to the role they play in providing prenatal and postnatal support and comfort toward their expectant partner.) The presence of a supportive partner during pregnancy is important. For many first time fathers, the prenatal process is a mystery right after being told that the pregnancy test is positive. It is helpful when the expectant father has both a basic understanding of the normal changes that occur during pregnancy as well as a familiarity with the prenatal visit process.
How long does pregnancy last?
For most women, a pregnancy is dated from the first day of the last menstrual period. Pregnancy lasts, on average, about 40 weeks, or 9 months.
The nine months are divided into three time segments known as trimesters, thus creating a first, second, and third trimester.
Each trimester has specific prenatal tests and maternal assessments that are used to monitor the health and well-being of the pregnant patient and her unborn baby. The due date is an estimate of when the baby may arrive. This will help the obstetrician and the patient to plan various aspects of care during each prenatal visit.
What happens during the first trimester (0-13 weeks)?
During the first trimester, most pregnant patients will feel the need for more rest. As a woman’s body adjusts to the rapid rise in pregnancy hormones, symptoms of fatigue, breast tenderness, nausea, emesis, and sleep and mood changes may occur.
A pregnant woman may feel some or all of these symptoms begin very early in the pregnancy. Comfort, support, and understanding may be offered to the expectant mother whenever these symptoms occur.
What happens during the second trimester (14-28 weeks)?
In the second trimester, a woman’s body has adjusted to the pregnancy hormones, and many of the early symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, emesis, and fatigue) have resolved. Many women begin to feel better physically and emotionally during this trimester. An increased desire for intimacy may also occur.What happens during the third trimester (29-40 weeks)?
As the third trimester begins, the increased size of the pregnancy may cause back pain, body aches, sciatica, and difficulty with walking or participating in routine activities. Physical changes to the skin of the abdomen may occur, making it stretched and uncomfortable. Swelling and discomfort of the lower extremities are also common symptoms. Again, support and understanding will be much appreciated by the pregnant patient when these symptoms occur. Prenatal visits also occur more frequently, being weekly in the last month.
What is the importance of prenatal visits?
Prenatal visits are important to the health and well-being of the expectant mother and her unborn baby. As father-to-be, you are encouraged to participate and attend the prenatal visits with your pregnant partner, if you and your partner so desire.
Confirmation of the due date and assessment of the health of the expectant mother and her unborn baby will generally occur at the initial prenatal visit.
Prenatal visits are also used to evaluate the patient’s personal and family history as well as her partner’s personal and family history in order to assess the health of the current pregnancy.
Topics such as nutrition, exercise, medications, health issues, and prenatal screening options are addressed. Maternal blood pressure, weight, and urine assessment for glucose and protein are also done at each prenatal visit.
As the pregnancy continues, screening for maternal diabetes, anemia, and certain infections are performed. Information regarding prevention of newborn pertussis (whooping cough) via maternal and paternal vaccinations is given.
What about sex in pregnancy?
A pregnant woman’s desire for sex and intimacy may change and vary throughout the pregnancy. For most couples, sex is safe during any trimester of pregnancy. There are certain obstetric conditions where intercourse may not be advised, and in those cases, cuddling, kissing, and fondling may be other options for intimate contact. Communication between partners is encouraged during pregnancy so that both partners feel comfortable in being together. Individual concerns regarding sex during pregnancy can also be addressed during the prenatal visit.
If you have questions regarding prenatal care or being a new father, or if you are an expectant mother with questions, please feel free to contact our office at your convenience to talk with one of our providers.
In part two of this series, the topics of labor, delivery, and postpartum issues for fathers will be addressed.
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