If you troll the internet these days you’ll find all kinds of articles discussing how amazing pregnancy is. Everything from the pregnancy glow to the great hair you’ll have. If you look closer, you’ll find all kinds of references to things you need to know, but no one tells you.
Some of those dirty little secrets exposing the gross things your body does before and after giving birth. And if you dig really deep, you’ll find a well-kept secret that is seldom shared outside of the expectant daddy brotherhood.
Most men will publicly deny it, but there are things about your pregnancy that just freak them out. They wish they could tell you, but they don’t dare. While some men hide it well, others simply cannot fly under the radar, and it can often cause misunderstandings, hurt feelings and resentment.
So on behalf of your significant other, here are a few things your partner may be afraid to tell you.
7 The Glorious bump
The pregnancy bump is a big deal to women. It's our proud badge of womanhood. Men don’t miss out on this action either, for some it's ”the sign” of virility and manhood. However, that's not the case with all men. While most will tell you that their partner is beautiful inside and out, pregnant or otherwise, they don’t all consider the bump to be part of the beauty category.
Many expectant fathers find the bump an unnatural shape. It wasn’t until my second pregnancy that my husband openly admitted that it bothered him. He didn’t want to hurt my feelings, but to him it just seemed to be the wrong shape for a woman. When I did a bit of research I found that he wasn’t alone and it's fairly commonplace for men to have this reaction. They just don’t talk about it.
In 2000, British psychiatrist Dr. Kristina Hofberg, identified a condition known as Tokophobia (fear of childbirth and/or pregnancy) that affects anywhere from 3 -8% of women. Tokophobia isn't limited to women, men also suffer from the disorder. A study conducted in 2010 found that 11% of 762 men surveyed suffered from forms of Tokophobia.
The condition can cause general anxiety, depression, irrational fears, difficulty in concentrating, restlessness, sleeplessness, changes in appetite and behavior. Men can also suffer from an overwhelming fear of impregnating a female partner, lack of sex drive or desire, as well as turned off of the pregnant form.
One in three fathers who showed symptoms of Tokophobia also had a partner that exhibited signs of Tokophobia. The fears associated with the condition can vary, but are generally centered around the pregnancy and delivery. Anything from relationship concerns, finances, health and welfare of mother and child, as well as a general sense of helplessness on the father’s part.
Fathers who experience Tokophobia have difficulty discussing it, and have limited family support. Fathers who are able to share their fear and concerns with other father’s, particularly their own, are less likely to develop Tokophobia or develop it to a lesser extent than their peers who lack this support.
Before you go off diagnosing your partner, remember that not every man who finds himself turned off by the bump suffers from Tokophobia. Some just prefer their partner’s natural shape (and attitude), and find it difficult to adjust to the pregnant form and the changes involved with it. Our potential reaction is the number one reason men don’t tell us these things. To put it quite simply, they love us and don’t want us to be hurt by something that no one has control over. They also really don’t want us to freak out on them.
6 Alien Sex
When it comes to pregnancy, most women giggle and yell for the camera when their baby's foot is visibly pushing against the belly, men don't necessarily see it the same way. Men don't have a similar pregnancy experience, it’s very alien to them--in every sense of the word. Pregnancy just leaves them feeling helpless, and left out of the full pregnancy experience. Men feel a mixture of strange and sometimes overwhelming feelings of the unknown and future uncertainty--much like the aliens that scare the crap out of them.
Admittedly, when you think about it, humans trying to burst out of other humans doesn’t really seem all that natural outside of childbirth, and if you haven’t experienced childbirth yet, it’s kind of hard to associate it with anything else other than movies. This can be a major issue when it comes to sex. For the ladies in their second or third pregnancy, you’ve likely already experienced the hormone surge that sends your sex drive into overload. For those who aren’t there yet-- wait for it.
During my pregnancies, the sexual urges were amazing--not so much for my husband. And while my hormones wanted to party, his decided to pack up and head out the door. This isn’t all that uncommon. The big bump with its wiggling strange occupant isn't always welcome during intimate moments between mommy and daddy. There are numerous online chats where men discuss this very subject…at length. They don’t want us to feel bad, because it’s not personal. We can blame Hollywood and Alien for putting crazy ideas in their heads.
It can cause frustration and tension, there are plenty of ways a couple can be intimate without getting the bump involved. Changing positions to rear or side entry which can be more comfortable for both mom and dad, or alternative related activities to intercourse can also provide pleasure.
If he really is uncomfortable with being intimate while you’re pregnant, don’t take it personally, perhaps suggest that he focus on taking more time to care for your emotional needs by providing additional support, while you take care of your raging hormones. You may not want to handle those needs on your own when your partner is right there, but it’s important to remember he also has personal needs during your pregnancy that should be met.
If you feel awkward without him, try an alternative outlet such as a walk, yoga, or swimming can also help to relieve some of the tension while sharing quality time with your partner. Intimacy in pregnancy doesn’t necessarily have to include sex. Some quality time, a good cuddle and some physical activity can go a long way in helping both of you deal with the situation.
No one wants to talk about this one. Don’t light a match, it's pregnancy gas. Unfortunately it’s often loud and unexpected when it happens. Completely opposite to the secret silent gas women seem to be able to hide so well. Men on the other hand, have the category covered, so when the dainty princess starts to outshine her man in the gas category, they just don’t seem to know what to do. It’s a lot like sending your man out to the store to pick up your feminine hygiene products.
We’ve crossed into their territory and have for the moment outplayed them at their own game. My husband actually thought women only passed gas when they were pregnant. It’s a reasonable theory, if you get a room full of guys together there is bound to be gas and laughing, while women on the other hand will find reasons to leave the room or will quietly concentrate their muscles for a silent unobtrusive release.
Gas in pregnancy is not the same as our normal gas, and while some men will just laugh it off, others are secretly repulsed by the idea of women with cavemen like gas that could launch the Hindenburg. They likely won’t tell you, but they would appreciate you sneaking off to the next room if you can. Don’t take offense, this one you can genuinely blame on the baby.
In early pregnancy, increased levels of progesterone causes the muscles in your body to relax. This allows for everything to move and stretch making room for an expanding uterus and baby. This also means your intestines relax and take longer to do their job. The result is an increase in gas causing an increase in burping and flatulence.
In the later stages of pregnancy this is compounded by your enlarged uterus pressing against the intestines which further slows digestion and increases gas levels even more. With progesterone levels still high in your system, all those relaxed muscles means less control as well. So most men whose ladies have mastered the silent release will undoubtedly be quite surprised by both the lack of control and the increased number of incidences of gas during pregnancy.
Although you can’t stop the increase of gas during pregnancy, there are different things you can do to reduce the number of awkward moments it may cause you and your partner. One way is to drink lots of water, reduce fatty food consumption and not eating large amounts of foods known for causing gas, such as: beans, cabbage and broccoli. Although it’s probably a better recommendation to just not eat them before going out. Avoid soft drinks (which aren’t that great for you anyway) and drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates.
Eating smaller meals and eating slowly can help reduce gas, as well as getting regular exercise (to keep things moving) and wearing loose. Beyond that there isn’t much you can do except laugh it off and remind your partner it really is the baby’s fault.
4 The Bloated Walrus
By my third pregnancy we’d reached that point together where we had an inside joke about the walrus. During my first two pregnancies when I retained water and swelled up something crazy, my husband secretly cringed every time we went out in public. I was huge, swollen, extremely bloated and everyone wanted to know when I was due since I looked past my due date. “You must be so ready to pop,” they would say. The sad part was, I was only half way through the pregnancy.
The walrus is the point where nothing fits and even your cankles have cankles from all the fluid retention and perhaps just a bit too much weight gain early on. You say a prayer it will disappear immediately after delivery every time you step on the doctor’s scale. FYI, it won’t, but give it a few days for the fluids and a bit of work and time for the weight and you’ll be right as rain.
It’s common knowledge that some swelling in pregnancy is normal. After all your blood levels increase by 50% and fluid builds to help cushion and support your body and your baby. Too much swelling can be a bad thing because it can mask a very serious complication known as Pre-eclampsia.
Pre-eclampsia is usually identified by high levels of protein in the urine, high blood pressure and bloating. Its only cure is delivery of your baby, and if it isn't detected right away, pre-eclampsia can cause serious medical issues for both mom and baby. In rare instances if it’s been left untreated, it can develop into eclampsia and be fatal for mom, or baby or both.
Try to avoid too much swelling, especially in the later months of your pregnancy. Avoid swelling by not sitting or standing for long periods, reduce your caffeine intake (or avoid it altogether), and increase foods containing potassium such as bananas. Reduce your sodium intake as well (all those salty cravings will have to wait) and avoid staying out in the heat for prolonged periods during the summer months.
You can also avoid the walrus by keeping active in your pregnancy with approved exercises like walking, swimming, prenatal exercise classes or even prenatal yoga. Avoid gaining too much weight, especially early on in your pregnancy. And if you do experience a sudden and dramatic increase in weight or water retention, contact your doctor or medical professional right away. The walrus may be funny after a while, but the potential risks it can mask are not.
When I reached this point my husband openly admitted he would do anything if it meant not having to see me waddle in public. For him it was awkward, abnormal and painful and he feared it wouldn’t go away. Because of my continuous medical supervision, my husband knew the health risks associated with swelling. For me the fluid retention went away on its own a couple of weeks after delivery, and it does for other women too, but it doesn’t mean hubby won’t freak just a little bit when he wakes up next to the walrus.
3 Watermelon Syndrome
There’s a phrase about pregnancy that refers to pushing something the size of a watermelon out a door meant for a lemon. It’s not a bad analogy really, but the female body is designed to stretch in order to accommodate the baby's head and shoulders during delivery.
In fact you can’t deliver until you get to this point. And often the body can--if needed--stretch even farther to accommodate a baby. Women have been able to deliver babies up to 15lbs vaginally. For most guys the reality of this doesn’t hit home until after they actually see the delivery and the amazing resiliency of a women’s body.
It’s during the second and subsequent pregnancies that this starts running through their heads. My hubby was a stickler for kegels. He was always reminding me during and after pregnancy to do them. Why? Because kegels exercise the floor muscles that help put everything back in place and he knew it.
There are a number of reasons why women should do kegels--and not just during and after pregnancy, but on a regular basis. They are recommended for men as well. Kegels can strengthen your bladder muscles which tend to chill out during pregnancy. A more relaxed bladder means less control, and yes you guessed it, increases the likelihood of bladder incontinence and even anal incontinence after delivery (yes that happens too).
Kegels help speed up recovery after a vaginal delivery, especially if you’ve had an episiotomy or if you tear. Continuing kegels can keep all your bits and bobs in check for years after delivery ensuring a reduced risk of incontinence in your later years. Something your partner will thank you for later.
As for the watermelon, you may want to discuss with your partner what role he wants to play in the delivery. Not long ago when men were kept out of the delivery room, often for good reason. As much as men love horror films, hunting and other bloody things, not many find childbirth exciting or thrilling.
The reality is birth is messy, often stressful and hurts. Modern women and hospitals assume that because men are now permitted and encouraged to take part in the birthing process that they all want to. This isn't always the case. Seeing their partner in pain and distress can be traumatizing. Add in all the body fluids and potential risks, there are plenty of reasons why men wouldn’t want to be in the delivery room.
For many it’s a difficult decision, they want to be there when their child is born and to support their partner, but they don’t want to have to go through all the stress of the delivery. When you consider how your partner may react during the delivery, it’s not a trivial thing to think he may not want to see it. When preparing your birth plan, discuss it with your spouse and advise the hospital staff, they will work with you and your partner to ensure that these needs are met as much as possible and may have other suggestions for your partner’s participation without the view.
Few men express disappointment or regret at missing the messy part. As for dad watching the actual surgical delivery during a c-section, not a good idea at all. The little curtain is there for a reason. It’s not just to keep germs and potential biohazards on the opposite side of the fence but also to prevent Mom and Dad from seeing the surgery which can be very traumatizing afterwards.
So unless Dad is a surgeon it’s not a recommended practice (and even then they discourage it).
2 Men like Stability
If you’ve read everything up until now you’ll see a common theme, regarding men and their secret fear when it comes to pregnancy. It’s not a fear that the baby can see them during sex (although the guy that came up with that excuse is a genius--really). It’s not that they think you're fat or weirdly shaped during pregnancy, it’s simply that they don’t like change and with pregnancy comes major changes to a women’s body.
Pregnancy affects every aspect of a woman from her physical form to hormones, eating habits, sight, smell and the ability to even just roll over in bed in the later months. Some of us are able to handle pregnancy really well, some of us struggle and some of us turn into monsters one minute and puddles on the floor the next.
Men don’t like change in any shape or form and it can really shock them to see the changes that pregnancy brings into their once very secure world. My husband knows me better than anyone else--inside and out. He knows every curve of my body from every angle. He knows what makes him happy and what makes me happy.
During pregnancy this also changes, organs shift and move, muscles ligaments and tendons stretch, your breasts grow bigger and start to leak in preparation to feed your child. Positions and activities which were once enjoyable pre-pregnancy may become uncomfortable during pregnancy.
When it comes to our form and appearance, what was once a beautiful sexual thing for men to admire and enjoy, suddenly takes on a very utilitarian purpose. We are bringing life into the world. Although it’s a natural thing, for men it can be completely alien to what they are used to. Nothing is where it’s supposed to be and they fear it won’t go back.
It's the same reason so many men are freaked out over breastfeeding. Before your child came into the world, breasts were sexual soft tender things to love on and caress. Now your breasts are feeding a wiggly wailing creature that has overwhelmed your partner’s world.
Many men worry that the pregnancy weight won’t go away, that their sex life is over both because of lack of time and also because your body has gone through such a drastic change.
It’s not that men can’t appreciate pregnancy and the miracle that is taking place. It’s not that they can’t find beauty in the pregnant form. Every man will tell you they have anxieties over the impending birth of their child but love and admire their partner for what they have to go through to bring that child into the world. Men don’t like change and nothing changes their world quite as much as a newborn.
1 What Can You Learn From Your Pregnancy
If your partner isn’t responding the way you thought he would, it doesn’t mean that your pregnancy has to be awkward or uncomfortable. When my third pregnancy came around we were prepared to make some changes. This is what we learned.
1. Don’t push the bump on him, let him choose his own level of comfort. In our case, the lack of pressure actually increased his level of interaction. When it came to sex, keeping the bump out of view greatly increased the odds of some quality mommy daddy time. Alternative activities both sexual and otherwise are another great way to remove some of the stress and frustration.
2. Remember your body will not snap back the very next day, give yourself a chance to recover, and reassure your partner that time and patience will work wonders. A good head start on your post-partum recovery is staying healthy and active during your pregnancy, but don’t push yourself too fast and too hard. Adjust to the new changes in your life and bond with your little one, this time will never come again so don’t stress over your weight.
3. Partners must remember that their support role doesn’t end when baby arrives, mommies need support and reassurance afterward too, especially when it comes to working off the baby weight and feeling confident in their new role as a mom. Daddy also needs the extra support, niclude daddy in baby’s day so he can experience those precious intimate moments too. Let your partner know how well they are doing and help and encourage them to bond with baby.
4. Take care of yourself. Regular activity, eating healthy and kegel exercises will all help to ensure a healthy mommy prior to delivery as well as afterward. Include your partner in these activities and discussions so they can feel they are directly involved in making choices to ensure baby’s health and wellbeing. It’s a lot more fun and less stressful then only being part of the medical side of the decision making process.
5. Most importantly, remember your partner may not be carrying this child but they are going through your pregnancy right alongside you. So while your partner may seem uncomfortable, distant or in some cases non respondent during your pregnancy don’t freak out, this reaction is perfectly normal for some men and it isn’t a reflection on you in anyway. Communication and understanding are key for both of you to know and understand what the other is experiencing.
Each part of the process will affect each of you differently and that needs to be considered carefully and lovingly. Remember to keep your partners feelings and needs a priority as much as your own through this process. Most importantly take it all in stride and try to make the most of this amazing experience.