Expectant parents can dramatically improve their journey into parenthood and foster a stronger bond by ensuring partners are actively involved in the fulfilment of specific roles at every stage.
Dr Dheshni Naidoo, a gynaecologist and obstetrician practising at Netcare Linkwood Hospital, notes that during this time, partners are often unsure of where they fit in, which can lead to their feeling emotionally isolated and depressed, particularly during the postnatal period.
“Building the role of the partner into the pregnancy and birth from early on and identifying opportunities for them to participate actively will help strengthen the relationship during what can be a challenging time, particularly during those early weeks of newborn life.
“As the childbearer, it is understandable that the needs of an expectant mother are top of mind. However, the partner also has an essential role to play, and empowering them can positively impact the journey the couple is ultimately embarking on together. When partners are actively involved at every step of this enormous life change, we see significantly healthier pregnancies and natural births,” she adds.
Sr Amori Jordaan, a specialist midwife and maternity unit manager at Netcare Linkwood Hospital, notes that while partners are more involved in pregnancy, birth and child-rearing than ever before, many still feel stigmatised if they speak up about their emotions.
“The changes that women undergo as childbearers are undeniably difficult and demanding. However, when it comes to the emotional aspects of having a baby, partners are also affected, but their bodies and hormones do not provide any preparation, and they are entitled to only a few days of paternity leave.
“A family-centred approach to care – where the mother and her partner are included – has enormous potential to positively alter the experience for all. We strongly encourage partners to participate in the labour ward and try to make their experience as comfortable as possible with a proper bed and cooked meal for the partner, as part of the maternity experience we offer.”
Dr Naidoo notes that the changes brought on by pregnancy are easier when not faced alone, and that women are significantly more likely to stick to healthy practices during pregnancy if they have someone to share the experience with.
There are numerous opportunities throughout each stage of pregnancy and birth where partners can get involved, she suggests:
During this time, many women experience food aversions – this is when her partner can step in and take on the responsibility of preparing nutritious meals that she still enjoys eating. It is also the time to implement healthy habits such as going for a daily walk together and being supportive through the successful cessation of any harmful habits such as drinking alcohol or smoking.
The nesting process is a good opportunity to prepare for the baby’s arrival together and discuss your expectations of family life. Baby showers can be a shared experience and an opportunity to celebrate the imminent arrival of your little one with the important people in your life as a couple.
As you approach the finish line, discuss your birth plan and attend antenatal classes together. If a doula is part of the mix, the partner can help facilitate their involvement. Single mothers should ask a close family member or friend to be by their side for support throughout the experience.
Partners are very much a part of the birthing team and must understand the phases of labour. At this point, they can help support mom while she bounces on the ball, help her in and out of a hydrotherapy bath, help with breathing and deal with any administration that needs to take place. There is a markedly higher rate of healthy natural births when partners are actively involved.
Countless opportunities exist at this stage for partners to be heavily involved, from doing skin-to-skin care with their baby to ensuring the mother is well fed and well hydrated for breastfeeding, facilitating family visits so that the mom is not overwhelmed, and taking on certain parts of the daily routine such as bathing baby and doing some feeds to give the mother a much-needed break.
Support without dictating
Having a baby comes with layers of emotions. It is essential to manage expectations and communicate clearly with each other. According to Dr Naidoo, partners should remain sensitive to the enormous change that the mother has gone through and be supportive without taking over.
Sr Jordaan warmly invites any expectant parents to join Netcare Linkwood Hospital free of charge on 10 February at 10h00 during the hospital’s Pregnancy Awareness Expo for a tour of the labour ward, theatre and maternity ward. You will be able to engage with various providers and exhibitors and participate in a Q&A session to learn more about the services available at Netcare Linkwood Hospital. The first 50 expectant moms will receive a goodie bag.
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