Fathers often have the same fears and concerns as their partners.
During pregnancy, the mother is often the centre of attention. However, new fathers are also impacted by the idea that they’re about to become a parent. In fact, they often have the same fears and concerns as their partner.
Even when someone wants to be a father and the pregnancy is planned, the process can be complex and demanding. It’s normal to feel nervous as the pregnancy progresses. Some fathers may even experience anxiety and depression.
Fathers are less likely to talk about their feelings and concerns with their partners, friends, and health care providers.
Here are six common questions that new fathers often have at some point during their partner’s pregnancy.
Will I be a good father?
Almost all men who are about to become a dad for the first time have this question. They wonder what kind of father they’ll be.
Some have this question because they didn’t have a good relationship with their own father. They want to be different and more involved than their father was. Pregnancy is a good time to think about what kind of father they want to be, and these thoughts can help them prepare for their new role.
Others have very high expectations for themselves and fear that they won’t be able to live up to them. In this case, try to remember that you don’t have to be a perfect parent in order to be a good father. Children primarily need to feel safe and loved.
Pregnancy can also seem pretty abstract in the early stages. For this reason, some men don’t really feel like fathers until the baby is born. This feeling can be heightened if they aren’t included in prenatal care appointments. A good way to make the pregnancy feel more concrete is to get involved in prenatal care. For example, you can attend medical appointments with your expecting partner. There should no longer be any pandemic-related restrictions as far as accompanying loved ones during pregnancy checkups, whether you have an appointment at your doctor’s office or the hospital. If you encounter any issues, find out as much as you can and make a complaint if necessary.
Some fathers may feel like they play only a secondary role and think they don’t have the skills required to care for a child. In other words, they underestimate their parenting ability.
Regardless of how you feel, it’s important to talk to your partner in the early stages of pregnancy about how involved each of you will be once the baby is born (baby care, feeding, your role if the mother plans on breastfeeding, the division of household chores, etc.). You should also talk to your partner about the values you want to instill and what kind of education you’d like your child to have. These discussions will also help you feel involved before your child is born.
Keep in mind that paternity leave will be a great opportunity to observe, get to know, care for, and bond with your baby. Little by little, you’ll learn to understand and meet their needs. The more time you spend with your child, the deeper your bond will be.
Talking to a professional about your fears and expectations can be a good way to understand what’s causing you to worry if you’re feeling anxious. Finding a support group and meeting with other fathers can also help build your confidence. In addition, attending prenatal classes with your spouse can be a good opportunity to meet other parents.
Shared parental leave
In addition to paternity leave, fathers can take a few weeks of parental leave if both parents agree to share this time. What’s more, when parents share their parental leave, they’re entitled to take a few extra weeks off. For more information, please read the following article: Maternity, paternity, and parental leave
Will my partner be okay during labour?
Approximately 1 in 7 fathers is seriously concerned about childbirth. Labour can be stressful for new fathers because they don’t know what to expect. That being said, the idea that childbirth is dangerous is more common among fathers who have already witnessed a complicated delivery.
Many expecting fathers are concerned that things won’t go as planned and that the mother’s health will be compromised. If you’re worried about the delivery process, avoid watching TV shows and movies that show catastrophic deliveries, which could make your fears worse. Instead, try talking with parents who’ve had a positive experience in the delivery room.
Some fathers also feel unsettled at the sight of their partner’s suffering during labour. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that we now have ways to alleviate a woman’s suffering during childbirth. Fathers can also play an active role in helping their partner during this intense time (e.g., massage, acupressure, making sure the atmosphere in the delivery room remains calm).
Will I know what to do and say in the delivery room?
Many fathers feel that it’s their responsibility to care for the mother during labour. Therefore, they might be afraid of not doing the right thing during labour and may even panic. This kind of fear is often made worse by a lack of knowledge about childbirth. By taking prenatal classes or reading about childbirth, you’ll have a better sense of control, which will help alleviate your stress. However, you should beware of information overload, which can increase your anxiety.
For more information, see our section on Delivery.
On the other hand, many fathers find that during childbirth, their anxiety isn’t so bad and they know exactly what to do. Focusing on the practical aspects is a good way to reduce stress. As a result, you will be totally absorbed by the mother and what she is experiencing. You’ll also be excited to meet your child. In fact, you’ll probably be more excited than nervous.
Will my baby be healthy?
For new fathers, one of the main concerns is whether their baby will be healthy. It goes without saying that it’s not unusual for the unknown to elicit fears and apprehensions.
Try to keep in mind that the vast majority of pregnancies culminate in the birth of a healthy baby. Around 97 percent of babies are born without complications. Even though this number is very high, some fathers remain concerned that things could go wrong. If this happens to you, try doing breathing exercises or activities that you enjoy, which should help you relax and reduce your anxiety. It’s important to focus your energy on what you can control and let go of the rest.
Anxiety and depression
Experts estimate that anxiety disorders affect 4 to 16 percent of fathers during their partner’s pregnancy and 2 to 18 percent of fathers after the baby is born.
Some expecting fathers may also experience symptoms of depression. These can show up as sadness, irritability, or loss of interest in activities they usually enjoy. They can also experience insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, or loss of appetite. It is estimated that 10 to 14 percent of fathers experience depression during their partner’s pregnancy. This figure is closer to 10 percent after the baby is born.
How will the baby affect our relationship as a couple?
When both parents support each other, parenthood can bring a couple closer together and make their relationship stronger. However, it’s normal for fatherhood to cause a few frustrations. For example, some fathers may feel excluded. In addition, new parents don’t always agree on how tasks should be divided or how to care for the baby. Exhaustion and new responsibilities can make both partners more irritable.
Having an honest and open relationship with the mother of your child can help. Couples who communicate well tend to feel more confident, and may even develop a better bond with their child.
Pregnancy also impacts a couple’s intimacy. Some men feel less desire for their partners during pregnancy, while others have the opposite experience. For some women, pregnancy hormones increase their sex drive, whereas others have a decreased libido.
After the baby is born, intimacy can also be infrequent. Indeed, new mothers need time to recover physically after they give birth. The vagina and the perineum will take a few weeks to heal. In addition to the emotional and hormonal changes a woman experiences after giving birth, exhaustion, adjusting to parenthood, and caring for the baby can also have an impact on libido.
Pay attention to your needs as well as those of your partner. Set aside time to be together. Even if these moments are brief, they will help. They can also promote sexual desire. Sometimes, due to the intensity of the physical, social, and emotional changes triggered by a new baby, some couples need outside help to resume their sex life.
How will my lifestyle change?
Fatherhood is a major lifestyle change. Fathers now have new responsibilities, and you can expect the arrival of a new baby to turn your life upside down. As a result, it can be useful to reflect on your values and review your priorities. Your outlook on life could very well change.
That said, it’s important to keep some time for yourself, just as it’s important for your partner to take time for herself. Keep in mind that caring for a baby can be exhausting, and parents who spend a lot of time at home need to take care of their mental health.
Many couples find that having a baby also has an impact on their social circle. You might not see your childless friends as much because you don’t have as much in common with them anymore, and because your lifestyle is more routine than before. Even so, make sure to keep some close friends. The people you keep around as friends and how often you see them will depend on your new values, your priorities, and how much free time you have.
If you want to hear dads talk about their experience of fatherhood, check out our podcast Histoires de pères (French only).
Things to keep in mind
Fathers can also feel depressed or anxious about pregnancy, childbirth, or the birth of a new baby.
It’s important to talk to your partner about your feelings and concerns.
Health care professionals and community organizations are good resources for expecting fathers.
Scientific review: Roxanne Lemieux, psychologist, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: March 2022
Photo: GettyImages/katleho Seisa and GettyImages/Rawpixel
Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.
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