Tips for Surviving Pregnancy

So, you’re living with surviving life with a pregnant woman?  First, let me tell you that you are really in for a wonderful adventure.  Whether this is your 1st, 2nd, 7th or 10th baby…it doesn’t matter.  Each baby is a wonderful gift…and a true miracle.  So many things had to take place at just the right moments for this pregnancy to occur!  You are so privileged to witness the growth of new life!  You may be the daddy of the new baby to come, or you may be the grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister or friend.  But either way, if you’re reading this, you’re likely to know a pregnant lady right now.  So, I thought I’d give you some tips to surviving the next several months with this pregnant woman!

*I will refer to the pregnant lady in your life as your wife, just for ease of writing this blog.  If she isn’t your wife, insert your relationship to her in those areas…*

1.  Nausea, vomiting, gas OH MY!  Depending on how far along your wife is, you may have already noticed one or all of these things.  The moment your wife got pregnant a surge of hormones took place in her body.  This surge of hormones is believed to be the cause of her nausea, increased sense of smell (contributes to the nausea) vomiting, and gas.  These hormones can wreak havoc on your wife’s body, but these hormones are a really good thing.  If your wife is sick and gassy, it is a good sign that her hormones are at a high enough level to keep this baby going.  So, as fun as it isn’t, the nausea, vomiting, and gas are a good sign.  Due to her nausea and vomiting it is unlikely that she feels like doing a whole lot with you or for you.  She may seem lazy, but trust me, her body is doing a lot more work on the inside.  If your household was like many in the world, your wife was probably responsible for making dinner or other meals, grocery shopping, and other errands.  Do your wife a favor and take over these tasks without complaint.  Your wife doesn’t want to feel sick.  She just does.  If there were more she could do about it, then she would.

The gas is also due to hormones.  It is believed that the hormone, Progesterone, that is racing through your wife’s body slows down digestion.  The longer the food sits in her digestive tract, the longer the healthy bacteria that lines all of our digestive tracts has to feed on that and create gas.  So your wife may be burping and farting a lot more often than she used to.  Now, some husbands are really really grossed out by this.  And some may take it as a duel to see who can burp or fart the loudest.  Neither of these would be good things to think or express.  Just like the nausea and vomiting, your wife doesn’t want to feel like this.  The gas likely makes her feel really uncomfortable and can make her nausea worse.  And as far as turning it into a contest??  Refer, again, to nausea.  Your smelly farts just may cause her another trip to the bathroom.  Take heart!  This often ends as the first trimester comes to a close and the second trimester begins.  And if you’re one of the lucky ones whose wife falls into the 20%-25% of women who eek out of the nausea, vomiting, gas…etc…let me just speak for the rest of the world as we all say, “I hate you.”

2.  Headaches  You can blame hormones for just about every annoying thing that happens during pregnancy.  Headaches are no exception.  It is believed that the surge in first trimester hormones and the increase in blood volume in your wife’s body are the main culprits of the torturous headaches she experiences.  I remember the headaches being so awful when I was pregnant with my first son that I thought stabbing myself in the head would feel better than my headache.  Obviously I didn’t test it to be certain, but it really was torturous.  As her hubby, there are just a few things that you can do to help.  One thing you can do is try to keep the noise, lights, activity…etc to a minimum.  Let her relax and closer her eyes or take a nap if she needs to in order to escape the headache.  Massaging her temples may be really helpful and offering her an ice pack or cool washcloth may be helpful as well.  Try to take your cues from her…but certainly offer to do what you can to help.  Like the nausea, the headaches should subside by the second trimester.

3.  Weight Gain  Most women don’t gain a whole lot of weight during their first trimester (refer to nausea and vomiting) and do not begin showing much until the middle of their second trimester…especially if this is the first pregnancy.  Weight gain is different for all women and varies from pregnancy to pregnancy even in the same woman (with my first, I gained 35 lbs and gained 25 with my 2nd).  Generally, though, women who were at a healthy weight before pregnancy ideally gain between 25 and 35 pounds by the end of the 42 weeks.  This varies greatly if your wife was under-weight, over-weight, or obese before pregnancy.  You can visit the American Pregnancy Association for more information about how much weight you can expect your wife to gain and for a breakdown of just where all of that weight is going.

The second and third trimesters are when your wife will put on the bulk of her weight with weight gain averaging at a rate of 1-2 pounds per week.  As your wife starts seeing the numbers go up on the scale, she will probably feel very uncomfortable and self conscious.  And, while most men tend to be attracted to their wive’s new curves, she may not feel very attractive. It is really important that you don’t talk to your wife a whole lot about her weight gain unless it is to tell her how beautiful she looks when she is pregnant.  It is also helpful to her if you don’t eat out a lot…especially at fast food restaurants.  If your wife is eating healthy foods during her pregnancy in healthy portion sizes, she will still gain weight, but it will be just what she needs to make sure she and your baby are healthy and ready for the big day.  So just remember that your wife isn’t “getting fat” and isn’t “unhealthy” if she is gaining weight.  The appropriate weight gain is a very very good thing during pregnancy.

4.  Emotions  Those pesky hormones are at it again.  One minute your wife is fine.  The next minute she’s crying over a Hallmark commercial.  Then, when you laugh at how ridiculous you think that is, she practically comes at you with a knife.  Yeah…Emotional roller coaster is an understatement.  You may be thinking, “What on earth was I thinking?  I should have had a vasectomy!  I am never having children again!”  Well, trust me, unless you end up dead via emotional wife, the baby is totally worth it!  If your wife has not quite started having these crazy emotions yet, just wait…they’ll come.  If your wife suffered from crazy emotions during PMS, depression before pregnancy, or any other emotional disorder, then it will likely only be worse when the hormones go wacky during pregnancy.

The emotions can often be unpredictable and seem to be unreasonable.  Chances are, they are unreasonable…and chances are your wife is overreacting to whatever dumb thing she thinks you just did.  Now, this can be really really frustrating for you and everyone else in her path.  Do try to be understanding.  She doesn’t want to feel this way any more than you want her to act this way.  In reality, there isn’t anything she can do to control her emotions.  She feels the way she feels and cannot control her feelings.  However, she CAN control her reaction…or at least can learn to.  Well, maybe not the crying so much, but the anger or fits of rage.  I did say up above to be understanding, but also don’t let her walk all over you either.  Just as you need to learn to control your anger if you have a testosterone or adrenaline surge when someone cuts you off on the road, flips you the bird, or disrespects you out at a club or restaurant…etc., she needs to learn to control her anger as well.  No one would ever excuse your outburst if you punched someone in the face because you just couldn’t handle your emotions.  The same should be expected from your wife.  She can’t use her hormones as an excuse to hit you, throw your phone, scream in your face, break your computer…etc.  This may be really really difficult at first because most pregnant women are used to getting a get-out-of-trouble “I’m pregnant” free pass.  If you notice that her fits of emotions are getting out of control, then you need to find an appropriate time (maybe a public place so you have witnesses if she murders or assaults you…;-) ) to bring it up.  If you do find that this step is necessary, try to express that you understand that she doesn’t want to feel this way and that she isn’t trying to hurt you or be a jerk (or other word…), but that acting out like that is unacceptable.  If she needs to take a walk to cool down or be by herself, then that’s OK.  But help her to find a different outlet for those crazy emotions.

With that said, don’t push her buttons.  If she isn’t feeling well, don’t get all whiny and crabby that she didn’t make your dinner or clean the bathroom or want to sleep with you.  Try to remember how difficult it is for her to control the emotions and attempt to avoid doing things that may encourage her to have outbursts.  But remember, don’t pour gas on the flames to try to put out the fire.  If she starts screaming at you, don’t respond by screaming back.  If you need to just stand there and put up with it or just calmly walk away, then do that.  But don’t fuel the fire by trying to prove who is right or who is wrong.  The more you respond in kindness, the more likely she is to come to her own conclusion that she has over reacted.

**A note to wives:  You know darn well that you can control the majority of your reactions if you would just take the moment to think about it and take a deep breath.  If you can control your emotions with your co-worker, boss, friends, pastor, parents, teacher, or stranger on the street…then you can control your reaction with your husband.  Just because he might put up with it, doesn’t mean you have a right to dish it out.  It is no more fair for you to have an emotional outburst and scream in his face than it would be for him to do the same thing to you if he was having a hormonal surge.  Keep yourself in check.  If you need to take a walk–do it.  If you need to walk away–do it.  If you need to take a drive–do it.  But come back together at the end of it.  You know as well as I do that the grand majority of these outbursts are caused by something small and accidental.  I used to get so mad at Josh for making eggs when I was pregnant.  Oh my gosh.  The smell of eggs made me so ridiculously nauseous.  Once I told Josh about it, it made it a lot easier for him to avoid making eggs when I was around.  Yay, problem solved.  Maybe it’s leaving dirty laundry on the ground.  Maybe it’s leaving dirty dishes laying around.  Chances are, the things he is doing are things that he was doing before you were pregnant and may bother you more now than they did.  It is unlikely that he’s trying to get on your last nerve.  Communicate more effectively by not yelling, screaming, or throwing a tantrum.**

5.  Sex/Intimacy  Now, this might be a really uncomfortable topic for some, so feel free to move on if you’d rather not read this.  But, if you are the husband of the pregnant woman or the pregnant woman herself, or trying to conceive, I would not skip over this.  Let me start off by saying that every woman and every pregnancy is different when it comes to being intimate.  With that said, I will go into what the majority of women and men experience during pregnancy.

If you’re trying to conceive, and have been for a while, you may already feel like the intimacy in your marriage is starting to dwindle and sex has become a means to an end.  I’ve had the privilege of speaking with many women who have had just this situation.  Try hard to find time to be intimate when you’re not necessarily “trying” to get pregnant.

If you are in the first trimester, then sex probably feels like a thing of the past.  With the nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, gas, bloating, headaches…need I go on?  Your wife probably doesn’t feel a whole lot like having sex.  A lot of women also fear sex, especially during the first trimester, because they are worried that it will somehow hurt the baby or cause a miscarriage. Now, if your wife has been spotting in the first trimester, it is probably best to not have sex and to visit your doctor or midwife.  In most healthy pregnancies, though, it is safe to have sex.  It shouldn’t hurt the baby at all.  However, it is important that you don’t push the topic.  If your wife isn’t feeling well or isn’t feeling up to it, be understanding of how she feels and find different ways to be intimate together or just wait until she is feeling better.  Try not to view these first several weeks as a trial that is so hard to get through.  Instead, view it as a practice run for how you can handle not being intimate for 6+ weeks after the baby is born.

If you are in the second trimester, congratulations!  Chances are that you’re baby is healthy and going to be OK if you’ve made it this far.  The chances of miscarriage, while possible, are much lower once you’ve entered the second trimester.  Also, most women start to feel a lot better and begin regaining energy by this point.  She may be getting those lovely curves, too, that you may find so attractive.  Now, if you’re one of the small percentage of men who aren’t exactly attracted to your pregnant wife’s new body–GET OVER IT.  Your wife wants to feel secure in your love and companionship and that your love for her is unconditional.  So, by all means, figure it out.  This is your best chance at being able to be intimate for a long time, so you’d better take advantage of that while you can.

If you are finding yourself in the third trimester, your wife is probably showing more now.  Sex is probably getting uncomfortable for both of you.  The baby hasn’t even been born yet, and he/she is already coming between the two of you…literally.  Try not to be discouraged…and don’t be afraid to get creative.  If it just isn’t working out…well, you’re not alone.  Many couples experience this.  Find new ways to be intimate with one another.  Try to get as much alone time as possible in together during this last trimester.  Soon enough you’ll have a little one who is in your bedroom…and that can complicate things as well.  If you’re late in the third trimester, your wife may be getting antsy.  There are a lot of women who believe that having sex causes labor to begin.  This really isn’t entirely true.  Doctors aren’t quite sure what exactly sparks labor, but they do know that it is connected to the hormone oxytocin.  While oxytocin is released during sex (as well as during labor and nursing), it is unlikely that it is going to shove her full speed into labor.  Some also believe that it has something to do with sperm causing contractions…anyway, it isn’t likely that your wife is going to go into labor because of sex.  However, take her up on it if she’s offering.  Again, this may be the last chance you get for a long time.  Please, though, don’t attempt to have intercourse if your wife is in labor and the water broke.  You would think that this would go without saying…but apparently it’s been done before because EVERY BOOK about pregnancy that I’ve read emphasizes this point.  You may be wondering why?  It could introduce bacteria into your wife’s body and to the baby as well.  It’s just better safe than sorry.

So, what can you expect after the baby is born?  Not much.  For a non-complicated vaginal delivery doctors ask a minimum of six weeks before resuming sexual intercourse.  Your wife’s doctor will likely wait until after her 6-week postpartum check up and then either give her the go-ahead or tell her to wait longer.  Now, just because your doctor said that your wife looks all healed up, it doesn’t mean that she is going to feel like sleeping with you.  I know.  Shocking.   A human being just emerged from her body 6 weeks ago and she bled for a few weeks after that…may have required stitches and walking may have been difficult for weeks and she doesn’t want to sleep with you.  Unbelievable, right?  On top of that, you probably have a baby who isn’t sleeping through the night and may be sleeping near your bed or even in your bed.  If you’re wife is nursing, she is probably extra tired.  Either way, your wife is still recovering.  And remember all those hormones that she experienced during pregnancy?  Well a whole new set has made itself at home and has likely lowered her sex-drive.  My best advice is DON’T PUSH IT.  Just because the doctor said, “you’re safe” doesn’t mean that she is ready.  Be patient.  Be patient.  Be patient.  If you push, whine, complain…etc…Chances are it will backfire on you.  Try to gently suggest other ways to be intimate and let her know how much you love her no matter what.

**A special word to wives on this post-partum sex matter.  Once you are feeling better physically, and your doctor has given you the go ahead, try to be understanding of your husband’s needs.  Chances are the last 9+ months have been really rough on him too.  He may have been so understanding and so patient with you from your very first headache until now.  But do try to be fair.  You may not feel like it emotionally and you may be exhausted.  But you are your husband’s only healthy outlet for this particular need.  Treat your husband with love, respect, and understanding that you so desire before, during, and after pregnancy.**

6.  Stretch Marks, extra skin, losing weight…After Pregnancy  So, you probably noticed sometime near the end of the 2nd trimester or in the 3rd trimester that your wife has some fun new stripes on her body.  They may be on her stomach, hips, legs, butt, breasts…You name it.  If it got bigger, it may have stretch marks.  Stretch marks are scars that develop when the skin stretches apart. Simple, right?  Well, they’re not so simple to prevent.  There are a lot of companies that claim to prevent stretch marks, but mostly it is in her genes and there isn’t much you can do to avoid getting them.  Some women get very few stretch marks…and others look like a zebra by the end of their pregnancy.  Chances are, if your wife has developed stretch marks, she is very self-consious about them.  You may not be super thrilled about them either.  Keep in mind, this isn’t something she has much control over.   Chances are that the marks will lighten up over time and will become less noticeable.  There are also procedures that can be done to help lessen the appearance of stretch marks (not really any over-the-counter creams…sorry) after you’re all done having babies.  If you meat with a dermatologist or plastic surgeon he/she can give you some tips about what would be good for your wife.  However, I would not recommend doing this on your on volition.  If you suggest surgery or some other procedure to your wife, it may make her feel even more self-consious.  Again, it is likely that these marks will fade significantly over time.  And there’s no use trying to do anything about them until you’re completely done having children…and procedures are never guaranteed to be a complete fix.

Extra skin often comes after pregnancy.  Oh man, it is no fun.  Your wife’s stomach may look like a sad, deflated balloon for a few weeks or months after the baby is born.  It is not fun for her to look at and may not be exciting for you either.  Over time, her stomach muscles and skin will start to tighten up.  Every woman’s body is different and the amount of weight she gained and the size of the baby can greatly impact how much extra skin she has lying around.  This is another one of those things that is best for you to not bring up.  Unless she is blind, this is something your wife may spend hours staring at in a mirror.  With healthy weight loss, a lot of the skin will tighten up.  But, for most women, her tummy isn’t likely to look like a model again.  Some, however, are very lucky and have been able to achieve amazing results with diet and exercise.  Genetics plays an important role in this as well.

Lastly, losing weight after pregnancy.  Well, she will probably lose a good portion of weight during labor and delivery and in the couple of weeks following as she sheds some pounds that are no longer necessary.  Most doctors do not recommend exercise for at least 6 weeks postpartum, so don’t expect her to get out and jog as soon as you leave the hospital.  With healthy diet and exercise your wife is likely to get back to a more reasonable size.  Now, this is where genetics come to play a role again.  Some women never get back to their pre-pregnancy weight.  For some, it takes years.  For some, nursing helps a great deal to shed the pounds as your body burns a lot of calories to create that milk.  For others, the body holds onto fat stores until they’re done nursing.  Keep in mind that it took 9 months to get to this weight.  It could take that long or more for your wife to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight…if ever.

Your wife’s body shape will likely be permanently altered.  The bones in your wife’s body started to soften up a little when she was pregnant to make room for the baby…so her hips may have grown out and may not go back down…etc.  So her pre-pregnancy jeans really might not fit ever again either.  It really depends from woman to woman.  Again, with healthy diet and exercise, her body should become a bit more normal.

Having a baby is a huge decision and will change your lives forever.  This is such a blessing.  Pregnancy can be a blessing too…but it can also be really stressful.  No matter how you look at, pregnancy brings on many changes.  I hope that this helps you to sort through some of those changes and learn how to be a good husband, friend, parent, or sibling to the pregnant lady in your life.

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