Healthy relationships and pregnancy

Healthy relationships and pregnancy

Pregnant women's feelings and healthy relationships

When you're pregnant, the extra hormones in your body can cause lots of emotional ups and downs. You're also adjusting to a major change in your life, so it isn't surprising if you and your partner are feeling emotional. There are physical changes too, which affect how well you feel and how you feel about your body.

If you're an expectant mum, you might feel:

  • more vulnerable and tired than usual and in need of extra support
  • more interested and involved in the pregnancy than your partner
  • less - or more - interested in sex than you used to be.

You might discover that your partner doesn't feel the connection with the unborn baby as strongly as you do. If this is a concern for you, it might help to know that this often changes as pregnancy progresses. As your baby makes its presence felt - with kicks, movements and a growing bump - your partner will probably feel more connected too.

If you and your partner feel differently about the pregnancy, it can affect your relationship. But it's likely your feelings will become more alike as you move through different stages of the pregnancy together.

Pregnancy experiences that can affect relationships

You and your partner might feel really excited about the birth of your baby. But it's common for you to go through some strains in your relationship because of the changes that pregnancy brings.

Here are some things that often affect pregnant couples' relationships:

  • The shift in focus to include another person in your relationship might cause some tension between you.
  • Either you or your partner might be worried about having a child - for example, you might be worried about the timing of the pregnancy, its effect on your career or the loss of your independence.
  • You or your partner might worry about how you'll manage financially once the baby is born.
  • One of you might want more or less sex than the other.
  • Your feelings about yourself and your changing shape might affect both you and your partner.

These feelings and experiences are new for both of you, so it's normal for you to sometimes feel confused and unsure about what's going on with your partner. If you can talk together openly about how you feel - good and bad - and what you expect, it can help you to clear up misunderstandings, strengthen your relationship, avoid disappointments and manage conflict.

Pregnancy is a time when family violence can begin. If family violence already happens in a relationship, sometimes it gets worse during pregnancy. If you experience violence in your relationship, speak to your midwife or doctor or call a helpline - they can help you and your family be safe.

Communication tips to nuture healthy relationships in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time for nurturing relationships, because of the emotional and physical changes that you're both going through and the new roles that you're thinking about.

Communication is an important way of nurturing healthy relationships in pregnancy:

  • Talk to each other about how you both feel about being pregnant and what's to come - both the positives and negatives. Try to talk in a way that explains your views rather than blames your partner.
  • Talk about your hopes and dreams for your family and what rituals and traditions are important to you both.
  • Talk about your individual parenting styles. If your styles turn out to be different, you might need to work on solving problems together with negotiation and compromise.
  • Be open and honest about your sexual needs to avoid misunderstandings.
  • Listen to each other as you talk. Good listening is about letting your partner finish talking before you speak. It can also help to check that you understand what your partner is saying by summarising what your partner has said.

Communicating with your partner is a skill that takes time, patience and practice. If you're experiencing a lot of difficulties or arguments during pregnancy, a relationship counsellor can help. But if your partner doesn't want to go to a counsellor, it's still worth seeking help, even if it's by yourself.

Practical tips for handling relationship changes

Practical preparations can help you handle the impact of pregnancy and new parenthood on your relationship. Here are some ideas:

  • Go to antenatal classes together. Some hospitals, birth centres and private practitioners also run special birth classes for dads, partners and even grandparents.
  • Consider getting some help with managing your money if you're worried about the cost of having a baby.
  • Talk about practicalities like how you'll make time for yourself and time for your partner and how you'll share household tasks now and after the baby is born.
  • Accept or ask for practical help and emotional support during pregnancy and after your baby is born. For example, if family and friends offer to do the grocery shopping or bring you a meal, it's OK to say 'Yes, please!'

In our Dads Guide to Pregnancy, expectant fathers can read more about preparing for changes in relationships and building relationships in pregnancy.