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Pregnant Fathers: The Third Trimester
by Robert G. Rodriguez

You're almost there! You and your partner are in the last trimester. In a mere 90 days you'll be a father, a "family man". The wonderful experience of being able to join your partner and new baby has nearly arrived. Your partner's body is making the final adjustments in getting ready for labor and your baby is beginning to mature in preparation for birth. You may have finally adjusted to "being pregnant" when a new flood of feelings arise within you as you get ready to welcome your baby to the world.

Many men at this stage begin to wonder what they will be like as fathers. Whether you'll be able to fulfill the expectations of this new role as parent? Reflecting on your father as a model may not fit how you see yourself as a dad. Fatherhood from generation to generation has changed significantly. The social and societal expectations for fathers, even twenty years ago, are quite different than today. Fathering and parenthood are not fixed roles. Dads' roles are influenced by the society in the time when they live and the needs of each individual family.

However, thinking about your own father and other significant fathers in your life is a good place to start. What did you most enjoy about your father? What will you do different? Do you see any of your friends or family members who you feel are fathering the way you would like to? This last trimester is a good time to re-examine your relationship with work and think about how you may want to make adjustments before, for and after the birth. Remember to allow yourself flexibility in your planning. No one can anticipate exactly what it will be like when their baby arrives, and the best made plans often need to adjust to circumstances and feelings you may not be aware of before the baby has arrived.

If you've been participating in a prenatal class, you've acquired a good foundation for the immediate future with your partner and baby. More important, if you've been part of a prenatal class with your partner you can begin prepare as a couple to share the birth experience. You should begin discussing the role you'll take during birth with your partner. What are your partner's expectations? If you travel in your work, where will you be when the delivery is likely to occur? Can you make suitable arrangements to be close at hand? Plan with your partner the things you may need at the time of delivery and when she brings the baby home.

The physical changes your partner has been going through will intensify during the last trimester. These physical changes will also have an effect on her psychological state. As men, there is no parallel experience as to the body hormonal changes a woman undergoes during pregnancy. The enthusiasm she may have experienced in the second trimester as the pregnancy was beginning "to show" does not guarantee she will feel the same way in the last month. You may also be feeling tense and anxious. Concerns about the health of the baby and your partner become more troublesome. Continue to accompany your partner for prenatal visits and ask any questions regarding this stage you may have.

You may feel some distress at your partners needs for increased help during the final month. No matter how much a couple can do in preparing for the birth of their baby, or getting their home ready for its arrival; there are always a few things that feel incomplete. Be patient with each other. Remember to keep the channels of communication open, neither of you can know exactly what birth and parenthood will be like.

Many men during this last stage report symptoms stage similar to those of their partner such as weight gain, lethargy, and other somatic type complaints. This is called "couvade sydrome" and is frequently seen in expectant fathers. Just remain patient because although the weight may not immediately disappear after the delivery, many of the other somatic issues will likely resolve themselves.

If you find yourself overwhelmed between working and getting ready for the baby, it would be wise to talk about this with your partner. It is also a good time to talk to other dads who have gone through what you are experiencing. Friends, family, the dads in your prenatal class, other dads whom you may work with can all be sources of support for you.
Here are here are a few practical tips that pregnant dads have shared with me about the third trimester of pregnancy.

For your wife/partner:

* Get things physically ready for the baby. Begin getting things for your baby, such as baby furniture, getting the house ready, preparing extra meals. Do these things together if possible.
* Try and maintain a routine to your relationship. Going to the movies may be the most comfortable experience for your partner, so plan on renting a good film once a week. You might want to go light on the action flicks.
* Discuss your partner's needs and ask what you can do to make things easier for her at the birth.
* Take a tour with your partner of where your baby will be born.

For yourself:

* Check and see how flexible you work will be both about time off for birth and after.
* Ask at least two new fathers about their experience of their baby's births.
* Find an exercise program that you feel you could continue after the baby is born.

Robert Rodriquez, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a psychologist and research expert with over 30 years experience working with expectant couples. Dr. Rodriguez is available for conference speaking engagements, seminar presentations, and training sessions, including Continuing Educations Unit programs. For more information, visit: www.DrDad.info

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