Pregnancy for Partners & Non-Birth Parents
Challenges for non-birth parents
For partners, pregnancy can be an exciting time filled with anticipation for the future. It can also present some challenges. Roles can change, more pressures come to the fore and relationships can face adjustments which can be quite unsettling. Perinatal depression and anxiety can be experienced by partners as well.
Common experiences for partners
- Feeling helpless while their partner suffers with physical discomfort or pain.
- Feeling the stress of becoming the sole income earner.
- Experiencing low self-esteem or lack of confidence about parenting skills.
- Feeling a strong need to protect their partner and the relationship.
- Worries about connecting or bonding with the baby after birth.
- Anxiety and overwhelm about increased responsibility.
- Concerns about mental health.
- Worry about the birth process, especially if there has been a prior birth trauma.
- More physical symptoms and less time for self to exercise and socialise.
- Belief that they should be the “strong one”.
- Struggling to ask for support from family, friends or professionals.
Research shows that male partners are less likely than women to access mental health services. When they do, they tend to use language such as “stress,” rather talking about mental health. Their symptoms are often physical (such as headaches) or cognitive (such as difficulty concentrating at work). They may also have different needs for treatment and support. Men usually have a smaller network of social supports than women. It is helpful to know some of these things in advance to look out for them and put some strategies in place.
We have some of the most advanced reproductive medicines/techniques available giving individuals options to those who previously were unable to have a family. In addition, we have had such diversification and recognition in family types.
Some research suggests that LGBTQI parents may experience higher levels of PNDA. They might socialise in circles where there are not as many children or have been exposed to discrimination or have had to use assisted reproduction techniques which may have added to their stress. It is important to note that no evidence to date supports the idea that the ideal gender mix of parents is a man and a woman. Children need parents who are available and attuned to their needs whatever the constellation.
Date of Last Review: August 2021
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