An Expectant Dad's Guide to Pregnancy
You got her pregnant, but are you ready for the nine month roller coaster? Consider this your expectant father’s survival guide.
Prenatal Visits and the Expectant Father
A generation or two ago, it was unusual for an expectant father to be
present during labor, let alone hang out with his pregnant wife in the exam
room when she saw her doctor. Now dads are encouraged to go to prenatal care
Assuming that all goes well, there will be about 15 routine prenatal visits
scheduled with varying frequency: once a month until 28 weeks, three or four
times up to week 36, and once a week for the last month.
If you can make time to join your partner at all or most appointments, she
will likely appreciate it, and you'll benefit from knowing what's going on. Two
visits in particular are especially worthwhile: the first appointment, and the
prenatal ultrasound exam. "As a physician, I want the dad there
for the first appointment to talk about what will happen, and to determine
parents' preferences," Woods says.
During the exam, the doctor should give both of you some general advice on
having a healthy pregnancy and address any specific medical issues. You can
help by paying close attention and asking thoughtful questions. The exam
typically involves simple things like collecting urine and blood samples from
the mother, taking her blood pressure, measuring around her middle, and
Afterward, don't be surprised if she needs you to "spend half an hour
drying tears over the weight gain and explaining that, 'no, you don't look like
a cow,'" Woods says. Another thing that could catch you off guard is the
internal pelvic exam, which may be done in front of you. It's a standard
obstetric procedure, but to the guy standing there while his wife has one --
even a guy who happens to be a medical doctor -- "no matter what, it just
seems weird," Woods says.
During the 20th week of pregnancy, an ultrasound exam is normally done. This
is when many parents get a first glimpse of the baby and take home a sonogram
snapshot for the baby's album. Sometimes ultrasound is used earlier in
pregnancy to screen for birth defects or if a doctor suspects a problem.
Ultrasound at 20 weeks can also reveal the baby's sex. You may choose to find
out what it is or wait to be surprised.
The Grand Finale
At some point, the mom-to-be will draw up her birth plan. That's a detailed
description of how she wants to do labor and delivery -- where to go, who'll
attend the delivery, how she intends to labor, whom she wants in the room, and
what your role will be. Taking a birthing class together can help you figure
out the best practical ways to support her throughout labor.
When the moment arrives, all might go according to the plan. Circumstances
could also trash the plan utterly. Woods says that in his experience, having
attended the birth of several hundred babies, it's usually the