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Copyright 2005

Dads are new parents, too
by Tash Hughes

When talking about pregnancy and new babies, people tend to think of the new Mother and somewhat forget that Dads are also new parents. 

Obviously, there are aspects of becoming a parent that men are excluded from, such as actually being pregnant, giving birth and breastfeeding, but all other aspects of parenting can affect either parent.

Physical impact

Although not pregnant, men can still experience physical effects of pregnancy, such as

  • Lack of sleep from their partnerís discomfort or toilet trips
  • Tobacco withdrawal if he quits smoking for the babyís health
  • Symptoms of anxiety, including insomnia, headaches, nausea and tightness of the chest


All of the most common fears and uncertainties relating to pregnancy are felt by both mothers and fathers. These include:

  • Fear of something going wrong and causing a miscarriage or still birth
  • Fear of a child that isnít healthy at birth
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of the pain and complications of labour. A Father may not fear feeling the pain, but he worries about the pain his partner will experience
  • Uncertainty about being a good parent and knowing what to do
  • Worry about finances as the family increases and income probably decreases
  • Fear of not coping with the birth. For women, this may be a fear of not managing to be drug free; for men, they may fear not being able to support their partner or even having to leave the room.
  • Fear of losing control as so much about the birth canít be predicted or controlled
  • Worry of not being together when labour begins
  • Worry about not reaching the hospital or other birthing place in time
  • Worry about the new lifestyle and whether they will like it


Along with the fears, parents-to-be usually experience a wide range of emotions during pregnancy. Some emotions will be stronger in one partner at one time, but the balance may be different at a later stage.

Both parents can form a bond with the baby before the birth, although some will find the bond develops much later.

Ideally, the parents-to-be can talk with each other about how they are feeling and what they are hoping or fearing. Talking about these things with close friends and family is also worthwhile.

Mothers are often supported with the changes in their bodies and emotions, whereas fathers are sometimes left to carry on as normal. In fact, men are expected to support their partners throughout pregnancy and new parenthood. Obviously, their partners need support, but fathers are also entitled to support and understanding.

One of the worst things many people can imagine is watching someone they care about being hurt. Yet that is exactly what fathers experience when in the labour room. They have to watch their partner in pain, knowing they canít protect her from it or do much to reduce it either.

New skills

Many new parents are inexperienced in caring for a baby, let a lone a new born. Both parents may need to learn how to support a babyís head, change a nappy, bath a wriggling baby and how to live with interrupted sleep.

Even for more experienced people, there is a huge learning curve when parents are suddenly responsible for a little human being 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Learning new skills takes time and energy, it may even take some outside assistance.

If the father quickly returns to work after the birth, the mother may become more skilled at caring for baby. However, given the same amount of time with the baby, the father can also learn those skills. Itís important he gets the chance to learn his own way of dong things, and to make his own mistakes.


Tash Hughes is the owner of Word Constructions and assists businesses in preparing all written documentation and web site content.

Tash also writes articles for magazines, newsletters and websites, and cares for her four children with their father.




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