The nine months of pregnancy can offer expectant parents the chance to prepare psychologically and physically for all the changes that a new baby will bring. After those nine months have passed, most parents feel a sense of readiness, but that confidence can be shaken if one partner is deployed during any part of the pregnancy. Emotional stress, physical complications associated with pregnancy, and adjustment issues faced by a partner’s return from deployment can make this joyous event challenging for everyone in the family.
The emotional aspects of pregnancy
During the early days after learning of the pregnancy, parents adjust to the news and to the initial changes in the mother’s body. Both parents may be excited, but the joy may be complicated if one partner has recently returned from deployment, and/or if the pregnancy was unplanned.
- Keep in mind that in all families, military and non-military, the early stage of pregnancy is accompanied by concerns.
- Most parents feel uncertainty about their ability to parent.
- Many mothers wonder whether they can “produce” a healthy child, and may worry about the baby’s health.
- Many fathers wonder if they are ready to be a parent, and worry about their partner’s health during the pregnancy and delivery.
- Morning sickness and other physical changes contribute to negative feelings and worry during this first stage.
At some point during the second trimester, a mother feels the baby begin to move. As the baby moves around, mothers often begin to see the child as separate from her body. The baby becomes more real as parents begin to feel movement together. Viewing ultrasound pictures enhances the reality. As the pregnant mom focuses more and more on the baby, fathers can sometimes feel left out.
Throughout the third trimester, parents see the baby as even more separate and real. Names are often chosen during this time. Houses are rearranged to accommodate the baby, and plans are made for parental leaves from work. During this period, childbirth preparation classes may help parents feel more confident about their new roles, and can also ease fears about the upcoming delivery.
Strategies for parents
- Find a care provider (obstetrician, midwife, or family practitioner) who understands your worries and encourages you both to express your feelings.
- If you’re tired, rest when you can.
- Continue to exercise. Physical activity will help you keep up your strength and help with your mood.
- Talk to each other about all the changes that are happening.
- Share ultrasound pictures with each other and other family members.
- Try to select and visit a pediatrician ahead of time. You’ll feel more confident if someone is available to answer questions and address concerns after the baby is born.