Most couples are surprised by the intensity of the emotions they experience during pregnancy.
Having a baby is an important event that changes most couples’ lives. While some adapt quickly, others need more time. That said, most are surprised by the intensity of the emotions they experience during this time.
The impact of pregnancy on a couple’s relationship
Pregnancy inevitably changes a couple’s day-to-day. There is now a third person to consider. It’s only natural that there will be emotional moments and even some tension.
For example, each parent has to come to terms with their new role. This may reveal aspects of the other partner that they didn’t know before. The arrival of a baby is an opportunity to reflect on the love that each partner has for the other and to gain insight into their relationship style. Is it a loving friendship, a partnership, romantic love, passionate love, or a dependent relationship?
As you prepare to become a parent, you may also need to reflect on your relationship as a couple. Pregnancy is a great time for each partner to ask themself the following questions:
Have you noticed any changes in your relationship since the beginning of the pregnancy?
What do you expect from your partner in terms of commitment, intimacy, and passion?
This exercise can help couples identify the strengths and challenges in their relationship in a constructive way. It can also encourage them to seek out resources that will improve mutual satisfaction and reduce the risk of trouble down the road. This kind of exploration paves the way for sincere and honest communication. Parenthood then becomes a unique opportunity to grow individually and as a couple.
On the other hand, if there were already tensions within the couple, these won’t simply disappear with the pregnancy. Partners must avoid blaming the current situation for every conflict that arises. Some couples will become stronger, while others may feel themselves growing apart. These two extremes can also alternate throughout the pregnancy.
Fears shared by future parents
Some couples find that one partner’s emotions affect the other’s state of mind. They may also share certain fears about the pregnancy and the baby.
For example, the baby’s health can be a source of worry for both mothers and fathers. Expectant parents may question their new identity as parents-to-be and their parenting abilities. These concerns are perfectly natural.
While most mothers are concerned about childbirth, fathers can worry about it too. For example, they may wonder how they’ll cope with seeing their partner in pain and whether they’ll be able to support her.
Finally, parents-to-be may be concerned about how the arrival of the new baby will affect their career or their sense of freedom.
Different ways of experiencing pregnancy
However, these shared concerns won’t necessarily arise at the same time. There is no right or wrong way to feel during pregnancy, so it’s quite normal to experience it differently.
For example, fathers sometimes take longer to realize that a baby is on the way. They may have a harder time developing a bond with their unborn child since they aren’t the ones carrying it.
A partner can also want to be more involved in the pregnancy but not know how.
An unplanned pregnancy
Sometimes, pregnancy comes at an unexpected time. Couples who didn’t plan to have a child often find it hard to believe. When they finally come to terms with reality, they can experience a wide range of emotions. Frequently, the person who accepts the pregnancy first has difficulty tolerating that their partner is taking longer to do the same.
Communication is key
Prenatal classes are a great way to meet other couples who are experiencing similar emotions.
To maintain a good relationship during pregnancy, open and honest communication is essential. Be sure to take a slow and gentle approach as you both adjust to the many changes that come with pregnancy.
You shouldn’t be afraid to talk about each others’ feelings, expectations regarding the pregnancy, and your values when it comes to raising kids. Open up about your fears about the baby or about parenting.
Finally, you may need to address specific topics, such as the following:
The role the father or partner will play during delivery
Strategies for making time for each other as a couple once the baby is born
Sharing household tasks and childcare as new parents
Expectations relating to commitment and intimacy
Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or midwife about any concerns regarding your pregnancy and the baby. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about difficulties or tensions in your relationship, or to consider couples counselling if necessary.
Pregnancy and sex
Pregnancy can affect the sexual desire of both parents. A pregnant woman’s changing body can also make certain positions uncomfortable. To learn more about this topic, read our fact sheet on sex during pregnancy
Things to keep in mind
Pregnancy can change a couple’s life.
Parents may experience different emotions at different times during pregnancy.
Communication is the key to maintaining a strong relationship.
Scientific review: Dr. Nicole Reeves, psychologist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: June 2021
Photo: 123rf/Wavebreak Media Ltd
Leonard Lowdermilk, Deitra, et al. Maternity and Women’s Health Care. 10th ed., Elsevier Mosby, 2012, 975 pp.
Raising Children Network. “Healthy relationships and pregnancy.” raisingchildren.net.au
Raphael-Leff, Joan. Psychological Processes of Childbearing. Anna Freud Centre, 2009.
Women and Children’s Health Network. “Your relationship with your partner during pregnancy.” www.cyh.com
Zephyr, Lory. Maman en construction : petit chantier de réflexion sur la maternité. Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2018, 195 pp.