So you're going to be a new dad — congratulations! Parenthood is wonderful and rewarding, but it can also be confusing and overwhelming for first-timers. Whether your partner is pregnant or has recently given birth, this A-Z guide for dads will help you navigate the new, weird and surprising things in store for you, your partner and your baby.
This is the liquid that surrounds the baby in the womb. It is expelled when your partner’s “water” breaks during labor.
You’ve got the hospital bags packed and ready by the door for the first signs of labor. But did you know women often experience contractions throughout the pregnancy? They are essentially the body’s way of practicing contraction before the big day arrives. They are typically irregular and painless, occurring as early as the first trimester but can sometimes be mistaken for pre-labor pains. Unlike real labor contractions, Braxton-Hicks contractions usually don’t progress in length, duration or strength.
A C-section (or Cesarean section) is when the baby is delivered via an incision above the mother’s abdomen, instead of through the vagina. Some parents elect to schedule delivery by C-section based on preference or the recommendation of their doctor, for health reasons.
This is a trained birthing coach who provides extra support to your partner during labor and delivery, and sometimes for the first couple weeks afterward. A doula is not a replacement for your healthcare professional but can help educate you and your partner on childcare, pain-reducing techniques during labor, and how to adjust to a new baby at home.
Also called “lightening” or “dropping,” this is when the baby repositions lower in the pelvis in preparation for delivery. This can occur several weeks before your partner goes into labor.
Your baby will have two soft spots on the head when born. These are gaps between the bones in the skull — one toward the front and one toward the back — that gave your baby the flexibility needed to fit through the birth canal when delivered. (This is why babies sometimes look like pointy-headed aliens when they first come out). Although you might feel nervous about hurting your baby around these tender spots, rest assured the head is protected by a tough membrane, and the spots will eventually close as your child grows.
This is the period of time the baby is carried in the uterus. Full-term gestation lasts 37-42 weeks, when the baby is fully developed and ready to be delivered.
These are blood vessels in the rectal area that have become swollen, causing itching, discomfort, pain and/or bleeding during bowel movements. They are quite common during pregnancy. As the pressure from the uterus on the pelvis increases, circulation on the lower half of the body slows, causing the blood vessels in the area to swell. Most hemorrhoids go away after delivery but, in the meantime, you can help your partner manage them by encouraging a fiber-rich diet to avoid constipation and physical activity to relieve pressure from sitting.
Many new mothers find they can’t fully control their bladder before and after childbirth, particularly when coughing, sneezing or laughing. The pressure from the uterus on the bladder makes bathroom trips frequent during pregnancy, it can take up to a year post-pregnancy before unwelcome “leakage” runs it course. So don’t be surprised if you have to budget for baby and adult diapers for a bit.
Infant jaundice is caused when there is too much bilirubin in the blood, causing your baby’s skin and the whites of the eyes to have a yellowish tint. While in the womb, the placenta removes bilirubin from the baby’s bloodstream. After birth, the baby’s liver does that job, but it can take up to two weeks for the jaundice to disappear as the liver learns to do this efficiently.
This is a method of skin-to-skin contact when holding your baby. Both Mom and Dad can participate in kangaroo care, which has been shown to improve infant health and growth, and strengthen parent-child bonding in the first few months.
This is the process where your baby and the placenta leave the uterus. There are three stages of labor: The first stage is when your partner begins to feel contractions, which continue until she is fully dilated to 10 centimeters. At this point, she enters the second stage and begins pushing the baby downward through the birth canal. Labor ends in the third stage, when the baby and the afterbirth are delivered. Many parents expect labor to be a hectic and exciting process, but Dr. Kristin Wexler with Timpanogos Women's Center recommends preparing for some downtime. There are often hours of waiting first. Come prepared with an overnight bag of essentials (PJs, toiletries etc.), and reading materials to stay occupied while you wait.
The miracle of life has its ups and downs. In the first trimester, your partner will likely have regular morning (or afternoon, or night) sickness, characterized by nausea and vomiting. Luckily, it usually lasts for only the first few months and goes away soon into the second trimester. In the meantime, be supportive and don’t question when your partner suddenly decides the smell of your world-famous burgers is physically repulsive (at least for the next few weeks).
Leading up to the delivery, your partner may begin obsessing over baby preparations by cleaning and organizing the house and nursery. This is normal, and may be a good time for you to bond with your partner over baby prep. In fact, many dads exhibit nesting behaviors on their own too. Use this time to support each other's excitement and prepare for baby--just make sure your partner avoids heavy lifting or strenuous activity.
This is a hormone that stimulates labor. Dr. Kristin Wexler explains this hormone is naturally produced by the body, however, your doctor may give this to your partner in the form of medication, if their body isn't producing enough on its own and labor needs to be induced.
Pregnancy is often a time of joy and celebration, but it can also be emotionally and physically overwhelming. Mood swings and depression are common during pregnancy, affecting up to 23 percent of expecting mothers. Hormonal changes, stress, genetics and even thyroid issues can cause pregnancy blues. Luckily, prenatal depression is treatable. Dr. Wexler encourages partners to pay attention to these changes in mood or behavior, and to talk with your partner and your doctor about options, which can include therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.
This is the beautiful moment when your partner feels your baby move inside her for the first time. It can vary in intensity from a slight flutter to a painful kick. Some women notice this as early as 13 weeks.
A complete and successful delivery includes the expulsion of the placenta within 30 minutes of childbirth. A retained placenta can be dangerous because it prevents postpartum contraction of the uterus and can cause hemorrhaging, infection or complications related to its manual removal. Risk for retained placenta can be reduced by proper prenatal care and delivery.
Kids aren’t the only ones who need their vitamins. Your partner will begin taking prenatal multivitamins to supplement her body’s (and her baby’s) needs to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
All babies cry and fuss at times, but if you notice your baby has increased irritability, chews or gnaws, or has trouble sleeping, the little one may be starting to teethe. Your baby begins developing teeth in the womb, but they likely won’t break through until your child is 4-7 months old. Cool teething rings or finger foods (if your baby is ready for solids) can help relieve pain.
This is the tissue that connects the placenta to the baby's belly. It delivers the nutrients and oxygen the baby needs to develop and grow in the womb, and removes the baby’s waste products. Many dads choose to cut the umbilical cord post-delivery and find it to be a meaningful part of the labor process. Vaginal delivery:
This is a term for a natural (i.e., non-surgical) delivery. The baby moves from the womb through the cervix, vagina and finally the vulva. Although C-section deliveries are increasing in popularity, vaginal deliveries are still common.
Some women decide to labor in a tub of warm water. The warm water can reduce pain and speed up labor. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists consider water delivery an experimental procedure with risks, so the actual delivery will occur outside the tub.
Pregnancy and childbirth are an exciting, terrifying and overwhelming time for any new parent, especially moms. Be gentle and supportive of your partner, and remember she will need all the love and help she can get, as you both learn how to care for this new human together.
What you should say when your mother-in-law offers to babysit or your neighbors ask if they can bring you food. The weeks and months following the birth of your baby will be a whirlwind. Let your friends and family support you and don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice. You can even join a local or online support group for new dads.
You and your partner will be more tired than you thought humanly possible. Between 2 a.m. bottle feedings and hours of crying (by your partner and the baby), find as much time to sleep as you can. Look for ways to trade off with your partner on a sleep schedule, so you can both feel rested and supported as you tackle child-rearing as a team.
A new baby brings a whirlwind of changes and emotions for you and your partner. Dr. Wexler recommends reading "Your Pregnancy and Childbirth" distributed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for a month-by-month guide on what to expect throughout the pregnancy. As always, you should consult with a healthcare professional, like those at MountainStar Healthcare, if you have questions or concerns about the pregnancy or the health of your baby. Find an OBGYN near you and start planning for baby today.