Month five Why dad’s role in preg­nancy is im­por­tant

Dads play a vi­tal role ini your baby’s well­be­ing from the start, writes Karin Steyn

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

IT’S NO SE­CRET that fa­thers in South Africa are largely ab­sent and even if they are around, preg­nancy may feel like a time that doesn’t re­ally in­volve them as they don’t have a phys­i­cal role to play. This couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. If you are lucky enough to have a sup­port­ive part­ner, help him bond with your bump. It’s a vi­tal process for your baby too. A fa­ther’s com­mit­ment to the re­la­tion­ship is most deeply af­fected by their abil­ity to form a close bond early on with their chil­dren. Emo­tional se­cu­rity and nur­tur­ing are

cru­cial to you as a mother dur­ing preg­nancy, and a lov­ing re­la­tion­ship with an in­volved fa­ther is an end­less source of emo­tional sup­port to you. Fa­thers are able to way­lay many of the fears you may ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing preg­nancy, for ex­am­ple com­ing to terms with your chang­ing iden­tity and is­sues of whether you will still be re­garded as sex­u­ally at­trac­tive. If you feel emo­tion­ally sup­ported dur­ing preg­nancy you are less likely to ex­pe­ri­ence post­par­tum de­pres­sion. Fa­thers who ac­cept their part­ners’ chang­ing fig­ures and bond with the preg­nancy are more likely to bond with their new ba­bies and you are more likely to have fewer body and self-es­teem is­sues dur­ing preg­nancy. Ba­bies in utero are not able to dis­tin­guish be­tween their mother’s feel­ings and their own, and there­fore your feel­ings can di­rectly af­fect the health and well­be­ing of your de­vel­op­ing baby. A fa­ther who abuses or ne­glects his preg­nant wife is creat­ing one of the most dan­ger­ous emo­tional and phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences for his un­born child. If you are in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship, you have to find a place of safety for the sake of your child and their fu­ture well-be­ing. Re­search has shown that ba­bies born into un­happy mar­riages are five times more likely to be more fear­ful and jumpy than ba­bies born into happy re­la­tion­ships. How fa­thers treat the moth­ers and their un­born ba­bies can have a di­rect ef­fect on the per­son­al­ity for­ma­tion and char­ac­ter.

DAD’S ROLE IN THE BIRTH

If dads learn how to sup­port the mother through mas­sage, and say­ing and do­ing ap­pro­pri­ate and help­ful things dur­ing the labour, he can be a strong source of sta­bil­ity and safety in labour. Re­search has shown that women who are ad­e­quately emo­tion­ally sup­ported (for ex­am­ple when they have a trained birth com­pan­ion or doula) dur­ing labour, re­quire less pain med­i­ca­tion or in­ter­ven­tion dur­ing birth, have shorter births and re­port greater over­all sat­is­fac­tion with the en­tire birth ex­pe­ri­ence. This is also great for early bond­ing as a fam­ily unit. Ba­bies that are born feel­ing anx­ious or fear­ful are more likely to be­come inse­cure chil­dren and adults. Ba­bies who feel safe and se­cure early on in their life are likely to be­come more se­cure and con­fi­dent chil­dren and adults. We know that ba­bies in the womb are aware – they are aware of be­ing loved and wanted. They know they are ac­knowl­edged when peo­ple talk lov­ingly to them and re­spond to their every move­ment with care and at­ten­tion. They are aware of the peo­ple in their world out there and start to form ideas of whether their world is a safe or threat­en­ing place even be­fore they are born. They are able to recog­nise voices that they had heard when in utero once they are born. If the fa­ther lov­ingly talked to the un­born baby, the baby forms an emo­tional con­nec­tion with the fa­ther. Dad’s voice could have a sooth­ing and calm­ing ef­fect for baby be­cause the fa­mil­iar sound lets baby know he is safe. Fa­thers should be en­cour­aged to ac­knowl­edge the pow­er­ful feel­ings that emerge as they are in­volved dur­ing preg­nancy and birth and al­low for their new iden­tity as fa­ther to emerge. Good par­ent­ing is time and en­ergy-con­sum­ing, and of­ten men­tally and emo­tion­ally tax­ing. But good par­ent­ing pro­vides im­mense per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion, es­pe­cially when com­pared to the dev­as­tat­ing fruits of bad par­ent­ing.

YP

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