Supporting Mom’s Emotional Health During Pregnancy – Part 2 of 2

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supporting Mom's emotional health during pregnancy
(reading time ~ 7 minutes)
 In Part 1 of Supporting Mom's Emotional Health During Pregnancy, we discussed:
  1. Being the Supportive Partner You Know You Can Be
  2. Some Everyday Stressors Causing Emotional Instability
  3. Mood Swings
  4. Morning Sickness
  5. Fatigue
  6. The Anger Emotion
  7. A Word About Sex
  8. How You Can Help With Roller Coaster Emotions
  9. Taking Care Of Yourself Too

This Part 2 will consider the three trimesters, labor and delivery, and how your role as an emotional support partner may play out during them. 

Supporting Mom's Emotional Health During The First Trimester

Weeks 1 to approximately 13, the first trimester of your partner's pregnancy, can be rough. The pregnant mother will often deal with fatigue and nausea from "morning sickness ." Do what you can.

Listen. Let her know it's okay if she throws up while you're in the room. Or give her space when she feels sick. Most women will need more rest now. Make a run to get her medicines, let her sleep in, and nap when she can.

Try to eat healthy foods, which will help her eat well too. Get on a blender kick, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. If she starts craving strange foods, it's her body talking. Accommodate her request, whether pickles, boiled eggs, or peanut butter.

Take walks together or join in some exercise with her, such as Pilates or prenatal yoga with her care provider's approval. Perhaps give meditation a try. It may calm and relax you both. Back and foot massages can help her as pregnancy develops.

Practice relaxation methods you learn in your birthing classes. Look to the future together. Who will be working and who will be able to take parental leave time off from work, and for how long? How will the nursery be set up?

Will the baby be breastfed or formula-fed? In most cases, breastfed is healthier and proven to boost a baby's immune system. 

Talk with your spouse if you feel you are left out of the picture while your wife focuses on her changing body and emotions. You can expect some depressed and anxious feelings from her and possibly you too.

Women who have had miscarriages or infertility may be highly nervous about losing the pregnancy, especially during the first trimester when most pregnancy losses occur.

Usually, all that's needed is a listening, non-judgmental ear, and some extra love. The importance of a husband's emotional support during pregnancy can't be understated. So, in what other ways can you support your partner?

  • Taking on more household chores
  • Preparing healthy, balanced meals
  • Encouraging her to snack on crackers throughout the day since hunger can intensify morning sickness
  • Encouraging her to drink as much fluid as she can, especially water, diluted fruit juice, and weak teas.

The Second Trimester

The second trimester (~weeks 14-27) is generally considered the "honeymoon" phase of pregnancy when things level out a bit. Hormones are still changing but to much less of a degree.

Most women don't have the nausea of morning sickness nearly as bad, though some will have it throughout the pregnancy. Most women will feel more energetic and have their largest appetite during this trimester while the baby grows rapidly.

Soon, you will feel the baby move and hear her heartbeat during prenatal care visits.

Mom's body shape changes kick in. Body-wise, the mom-to-be is between two worlds. Whereas some women can avoid new maternity clothing during the first trimester, they need more room by the second, yet your partner's body has not become too uncomfortable yet.

This could be an excellent time to escape on a "babymoon" vacation for a few days. It may be your last chance to be together for a long time. If you have other children, make sure they get lots of love and attention now before the big adjustment.

Some Moms feel excited about their body changes, others not so much. This is particularly the case for moms who have had struggles with body image. And there are other stressors as well:

bonding before birth with ultrasound
  • The 20-week sonogram
  • Mom's growing to-do list
  • Possibly her upcoming baby shower

You can be there and lend your support to all of these, even helping plan the baby shower. Many baby showers these days include dads. So participate as much as possible; it's your pregnancy too!

What not to do? Don't minimize her concerns. Don't say "don't worry about it" or "just chill out ." As usual, listen to her, perhaps try to find the information she's looking for, and since you're a team, keep those lines of communication open both ways. 

Keep up the healthy eating, exercising, and relaxation techniques (yes, some television counts).

The Third Trimester

Usually, your partner will start feeling pretty uncomfortable by the third trimester (~weeks 28 until the end of pregnancy). The baby is quickly growing more prominent, and her body is getting ready to give birth.

Emotional support for mom during third trimester

 Babies weight can put additional pressure on her spine, back muscles, internal organs, and blood vessels, leading to decreased circulation and a frequent need to urinate.

She may experience backaches, sciatica nerve pain, round ligament pain, and Braxton Hicks contractions, which are non-labor-producing contractions. Her condition may also make it very difficult to sleep. 

Get your partner a full-body pillow. It's best for the baby and best for mom's blood flow to baby, especially with mom sleeping on her left side.

Mom may have difficulty doing routine tasks, finding a comfortable sleeping position, and even walking normally. She will likely be going to prenatal care visits more regularly.

She may feel very good or poorly about the way she looks. Fears and worries about becoming a mother and dealing with the upcoming birth can get quite intense during this time.

Reading about things that can go wrong with pregnancy and childbirth can even make things worse. If everything's going fine, this may be a good time to put the books down.

Also, a new mood swing may find her suddenly overcome with a feeling to plan, clean, and organize, in other words, to "nest ." This can be very positively emotional for some or negative if there's fear about not having enough to provide for the baby.

So how else can you help? As usual and most importantly, take time to be an active listener

Give her lots of time off of her feet. Some women may require a good deal of bed rest. Take on more of the housework. Help her feel comfortable, massage her feet and legs. Draw her a warm bath. Give her time alone to relax and read a book.

Put a pillow behind her back or anything else that can help make her more comfortable. Foster her self-esteem by letting her know that she's beautiful. Get the crib and nursery ready. And, of course, run around town getting last-minute items.

How to Help Mom's Emotional Health During Labor

The first thing is to decide ahead of time is exactly what role you'll be playing, whether you'll be cutting the umbilical cord, and if you want to take photos during labor and delivery.

Know your route to the hospital and install an infant car seat. Recruit a "wingman" to be ready to help with calls to friends and family and anything else you might need.

Then, get packing early. Mom will need her hospital bag, and you'll need one too. Have your bags packed several weeks early in case you need to run out the door. 

Your role as a labor coach begins when your partner starts into labor. Every pregnancy is different, but labor occurs in three stages and generally lasts between 10 and 20 hours, but sometimes much shorter or longer.

The first stage lasts the longest of the three stages, and it's divided into an early labor and active labor phase.

Early labor can't be predicted, varying from hours to days. For many women, early labor isn't very uncomfortable, but more intense for others. There's plenty you can do to lend your emotional support during labor:

  1. Try to help your spouse relax.
  2. Let her shower or bathe.
  3. Ask about her needs.
  4. Listen to music together, watch a movie, play cards or talk —anything to distract her.
  5. Expect that she may be exhausted, uncomfortable, and easily annoyed.
  6. Unless she's directed to stay in bed, take short walks with her.
  7. Remember to time her contractions.
  8. Offer to massage her shoulders, back, and neck between contractions.
  9. Put the breathing and relaxation techniques you learned in childbirth class to work.

Once your partner starts transitioning into active labor, with contractions about 4 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for at least an hour, it's time to go to the hospital or wherever she'll be giving birth. Your health care team will be sure to let you know when to leave for the hospital.

Help her get comfortable at the hospital, labor ward, birthing center, or home. During the active stage of labor, which usually lasts 4-8 hours, try breathing and relaxation techniques learned in childbirth class to relieve discomfort. If your partner doesn't need to be in a specific position for close monitoring, consider:

  • Having or helping her change positions
  • Rolling on a large birthing ball
  • Taking a warm shower or bath
  • Taking a walk
  • Breathing through contractions
  • Supporting Mom in asking for pain medication or anesthesia if she wants
  • Being an advocate for her and a calming influence on her.

What not to say. "It can't be all that bad" or "Don't worry, you're just fine." Unless you've ever had a root canal without Novocain or passed a huge kidney stone, you have no standing to minimize her pain. It's real!

During The Delivery – Roll With It

If an emergency occurs, you may be asked to leave the room. Do so right away. Sometimes babies are born by cesarean delivery. This is through an incision in the mother's abdomen and uterus.

Usually, though, everything will go just as planned. The final stage of active labor referred to as transition, can be particularly painful. Contractions are more frequent and can be 60 to 90 seconds long. Mom will experience additional pressure on her lower back and rectum. She will feel the urge to push. Of course, encourage her during the pushing stage, letting her know, "You can do this!"

This is the end of Supporting Mom's Emotional Health During Pregnancy - Part 2. I hope you found this blog informative and useful. I'd really like to hear any comments you may have. I respond to all. Happy emotions and happy parenting!

About the author 

Dan Sperling

I'm the proud father of two great children. They are grown up now, and although I would have preferred to be a stay-at-home dad, I had to work. Luckily, I could work out of my home so I was around a lot. I ran a video production company, had a couple of great guys working with me and it allowed me to be around the children a lot. I was the "fun guy" for my kids and fathering was something I just took to.
When my daughter became pregnant, I was glad to see my son-in-law was doing everything right--or as good as it gets--we're always winging it, right? It got me thinking that so many dads would like to be more emotionally involved and knowledgeable when it comes to their wives' pregnancy and the first year of their children's lives.

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