Pregnancy: where do men fit in?

Pregnancy: where do men fit in?

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Left out of pregnancy?

While your partner is pregnant, you might go through many different reactions and emotions. Some can be harder to deal with than others.

Feeling left out or unimportant is a pretty common feeling in pregnancy. You might even feel that your partner is giving more of her attention to the pregnancy than to your relationship.

But having a baby growing inside you is an amazing thing, and it's normal for a woman to feel absorbed by the experience. She isn't rejecting you.

Left out at pregnancy appointments

Some of your experiences with pregnancy services might not be what you expect.

Although services are getting better at including men in antenatal care, sometimes the system forgets that men are interested and want to be part of things. It's easy to feel invisible if a health professional talks as if your partner is the only one expecting a baby.

At the antenatal appointments, there was a general sense of 'Mate, you've done your bit, now leave it to us'. Being a women's hospital, it was all set up for and focused on the woman. At some appointments, there was no seat for me, and finding the men's toilets was a challenge. It felt a bit like when you walk into a pub and everyone's a local and you're not. Overall, it was a positive experience though. When it came to the birth, I felt included and like I could play as much of a part as I wanted.
- Milton, father of one

Jealousy, aggression and violence in pregnancy

For some men, feeling left out of pregnancy can trigger stronger reactions like jealousy or anger.

Anger is a normal human emotion - everyone feels angry at some stage. But anger can be a problem if it happens a lot or it gets out of control.

Losing your temper when you're angry can frighten and stress your baby's mother. Stress can increase the cortisol going through the placenta to your baby, and this is bad for your baby. It can put your baby at a higher risk of premature birth, low birth weight and developmental problems.

If you think that feeling left out might lead to anger or violence, get help. You can talk to your GP or call MensLine on 1300 789 978.

Handling feelings about being left out of pregnancy

If you're feeling left out, try talking with someone - your partner, a friend or a family member.

Explaining your feelings to your partner can make you feel heard and help you feel included in the pregnancy.

Open and honest communication can give you both the chance to mend any hurt feelings or clear up misunderstandings. Doing this earlier, rather than later, can help you manage strong feelings.

If you know another dad or expectant dad, you could ask him about his experience. Did he feel left out at times during his partner's pregnancy? Was he given any advice that helped him through? What worked?

You could try to release any stress and tension through exercise, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, yoga and other activities that you enjoy or that help you feel relaxed. You could also do projects for your baby like making furniture or painting the nursery walls.

If your partner is really interested in looking at baby stuff or baby names, you might find it helps to join her in those activities. It might feel strange at first, but if you push past that and get involved, you could start to feel differently.

Things you can do

  • If you're feeling left out, let your partner know and give her an opportunity to include you.
  • You could also chat with a family member or friend or another expectant dad about your experience. They might have felt the same at some point.
  • If you feel like you're on the outside of the pregnancy experience, don't wait to be included - join in! Spending time looking at baby clothes or furniture is also a chance to spend time with your partner.
  • Do some exercise, muscle relaxation, deep breathing or other activities that help you to release stress and tension.
  • If you think that feeling left out could turn into anger or violence, get help. You can talk to your GP or call MensLine on 1300 789 978.