How do my partner and I know if we're emotionally ready to have a baby?
How much stress does a pregnancy put on a relationship? How will our life as a couple change when we get pregnant?
What kind of stress should we expect?
What should my partner and I talk about before getting pregnant?
What other issues should we talk about before getting pregnant?
Does my partner's lifestyle affect the pregnancy?
Will we still be able to travel when I get pregnant?
How can friends and family members help us prepare for pregnancy?
How do my partner and I know if we're emotionally ready to have a baby?You're emotionally ready to have a baby if you're having it for the right reasons, with the right person, at the right time, and go into it with realistic expectations of yourself, each other, and your relationship.
The emotional demands of parenthood on each partner are enormous. Each must be prepared to commit to communicating and connecting to a new baby at all times and be able to accept the constant demands of a baby.
How much stress does a pregnancy put on a relationship? How will our life as a couple change when we get pregnant?Changes that come with pregnancy will, to some degree, cause stress in any relationship, no matter how strong it is. Pregnancy is a major life-altering event with important physical, emotional, and financial effects that you need to deal with in advance.
Working together will make pregnancy preparation and the changes you will need to make in the future easier, and help you forge a strong, healthy family. You and your partner must be ready, willing, and able to withstand a range of degrees of stress. Your levels of stress may intensify, diminish, and vary constantly; it may be difficult to predict.
What kind of stress should we expect?You must expect and be ready to endure feelings of stress, frustration, incompetence, vulnerability, and responsibility. You must be ready to act with total selflessness because that's what a new baby will require.
A key change is that you and your partner need to expect and be ready for interruptions of intimacy, obstacles to spontaneity, and limitations on your availability for each other.
Finally, relationship experts tell us that, ideally, any unresolved issues in the relationship should be worked out before pregnancy.
What should my partner and I talk about before getting pregnant?Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves the questions below. There are no right or wrong answers; whatever your answers, they will increase your awareness of your readiness for parenthood.
This will be a very important and powerful conversation. It may take some time and some soul-searching. Be prepared to have it once or twice or even three times to make sure you get to all the issues or to revisit issues that need more time. Be prepared to have insights into yourself, your partner, and your relationship that may necessitate additional consideration and conversation. Consider couples counseling to help resolve issues that are important to you and your partner.
What other issues should we talk about before getting pregnant?If there are existing problems in your relationship, discuss them openly and honestly now because they might escalate after you become pregnant. If you are unable to work them out, consult a professional, someone trained in family therapy.
This is especially true if there is physical (hitting, pushing, kicking) and emotional (yelling, scaring) abuse in your relationship. Abuse is never ok. Becoming pregnant will not stop abuse, and sometimes the abuser's violence escalates when his partner becomes pregnant. Physical abuse is a risk not only to you but also to your baby. It can injure your baby or lead to miscarriage or preterm birth. It is psychologically harmful for children to witness domestic violence. Also, child abuse is more common in families where a parent is violent. Get help right away. Go to our resources to find assistance.
Does my partner's lifestyle affect the pregnancy?Yes, your partner's lifestyle can affect your pregnancy. Therefore, we recommend that you ask your partner to adopt the same healthy lifestyle as you. We know that's not always possible. However, if your partner can't or won't change a harmful behavior or lifestyle, you need to think about the implications of this for yourself, your relationship, your pregnancy, and your family.
We strongly recommend that before you try to get pregnant, you and your partner stop smoking, stop drinking alcohol, and stop recreational drug use. You should eat a healthy diet and avoid exposure to chemicals and pollutants that may harm you and your baby or in some way jeopardize or compromise a healthy pregnancy.
We also recommend paying serious attention to your work and home environment and that of the child's father. Studies have shown that a man's sperm can be affected by chemical exposure and that the effects on pregnancy are most likely to occur from exposures in the three months before conception. This is because sperm matures in the testes over a three month period. A father's exposure to chemicals, such as some pesticides, has been linked to miscarriage and premature babies.
Additionally, your partner's lifestyle can have an impact upon yours. For instance, the benefits of your decision to quit smoking can be compromised by the smoke from your partner's cigarette (sidestream and secondhand smoke). And, his drinking or smoking behavior can influence your behavior. Your partner has the opportunity to play a major role in helping you avoid alcohol use and smoking during pregnancy.
It is easier to make behavior changes when you work on them together. Working together this way can also help bring you closer and help you build a strong and healthy family unit.
Will we still be able to travel when I get pregnant?A trip with your partner before your first pregnancy might be the last chance you and partner have to travel alone together for a long (long!) while. So, if you have any plans for a distant or foreign vacation, now – before you become pregnant - would be a good time to take that trip.
That said, there is no reason why you can't travel when you become pregnant; it largely depends on how you feel and how healthy you are. Long distance travel can be uncomfortable for some pregnant women.
Two important things you need to know are:
1. Most airlines won't accept women who are over 35 weeks pregnant.
2. Foreign travel can expose you to illnesses you might not encounter at home.
If you don't already have a support network of friends, relatives, health care providers, health education professionals, clergy, etc., now is a good time to create and/or strengthen it.
Most recent page update: 10/26/2012
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Childbirth Connection is a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1918 as Maternity Center Association. Our mission is to improve the quality and value of maternity care through consumer engagement and health system transformation. Childbirth Connection promotes safe, effective and satisfying evidence-based maternity care and is a voice for the needs and interests of childbearing families.
News and Features
Listening to MothersSM III: New Mothers Speak Out (June 2013) reports on new national surveys about issues women face in the postpartum period and their views about maternity care.
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Listening to MothersSM III (May 2013) is the third national survey exploring women's experiences in pregnancy and childbirth. Commissioned by Childbirth Connection, conducted by Harris Interactive, and funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the survey polled 2,400 women who gave birth in U.S. hospitals from 2011 to 2012. Results show that medically intensive experiences are typical, and evidence-based practices are underutilized. Childbearing women need better support and knowledge to navigate their maternity care.
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