As an expecting dad going through the exciting and occasionally challenging journey towards the arrival of your baby, sometimes it can feel as though all the focus is on your partner. When you think about it, this is not surprising. After all, it’s your partner who has to carry the baby and bring it safely into the world.

But you want to help. You want to feel involved but also show your partner – and the rest of the world – that your desire to be involved is genuine. So how can you contribute in a meaningful way to preparing for your baby’s arrival and caring for your partner at the same time?

Put yourself in her shoes

It’s important to remember that your pregnant partner is dealing with a whole range of challenges. For a start, she’s getting used to all the changes that are occurring in her body and her emotions as the little one grows inside her. She may even be experiencing antenatal anxiety or depression. This is a common and serious mental illness that occurs during pregnancy and we know it affects around one in five expecting mums, so it could be affecting your partner.

Antenatal anxiety and depression is a temporary and treatable illness. However, left untreated it can get worse and can even extend beyond the birth. So it’s important to keep an eye out for its signs and symptoms. If you do notice any changes in your partner’s moods or behaviour, especially if they last for more than two weeks at a time or seem to get worse, call PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline for information and support.

Some tips for dads

There are a number of ways you can provide genuine and practical support to your partner, including:  

  • Show a genuine interest in your unborn baby’s development and take an active role in getting your lives ready for its arrival. Don’t expect your partner to show all the initiative in thinking what needs to be done.  
  • Plan what support you can provide and what supports you can call on in those first few days and first few weeks after the birth. Will family and friends be available? Will you have food and other necessary items in the house?
  • Remember in the lead up to the birth, if you notice changes in your partner’s behaviour they may be caused by external factors and even possibly due to an actual illness rather than faults in your relationship.
  • Now is not the best time to be making big life decisions about things like your relationship, career or your house. Just concentrate on getting the baby safely into the world and supporting your partner’s mental and physical health and worry about those things down the track.

Preparing for the birth

For many men, the prospect of the actual birthing process can be quite daunting. It’s the most natural thing in the world but still very different from the kinds of things most of us deal with everyday! However there are ways to prepare for it. Most hospitals offer antenatal classes (otherwise known as childbirth education or birth and parenting classes). Some charge a fee for this service. These can fill up quickly, so get in early!

Or you could do something similar but in a less formal setting! Beer n Bubs is a one-night session at pubs all over Australia where as an expecting dad, you can learn how to support your partner through the birth of your baby.  

Look after yourself too

It’s also important to look after your own physical, emotional and mental health as possible if you hope to provide ongoing support to your partner and your new little one after it arrives. Exercise, a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption and sufficient sleep can all make a difference. However it’s important to remember that dads can also develop anxiety and depression in the journey to becoming a parent. Around one in ten expecting and new dads will experience symptoms of perinatal anxiety or depression.

If you notice any emotions or feelings that worry you, you can call PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 (9am – 7.30pm AEST Mon – Fri). It’s a safe and welcoming place to talk about any feelings that are worrying you. Try to remember that if you are struggling, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness or that you are failing as a dad. It actually shows that you are trying to do what’s best for your family. 

Photo by @timespentnesting