Tommy's PregnancyHub

How pregnancy can affect dads and partners

The physical and emotional changes that pregnant mums and birthing parents go through are well known. But there’s some evidence that men and non-birthing parents may experience hormone changes too.

Hormone changes in parents

You and the mum or birthing parent experience different physical and emotional changes when you become parents. These help you to care for your baby in different ways. So together, you will give your baby everything they need to develop physically, emotionally and socially. 

Testosterone levels fall in men when they become parents. Testosterone is useful when you’re dating as it gives you the drive to find a partner. But when you’ve found a partner or are about to become a parent, the drop in testosterone can help you build stronger relationships and care for your baby.   

Feeling like a parent

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like a parent yet or you’re finding it hard to bond with your baby.  

Going to some antenatal appointments with your partner will help you feel involved in the pregnancy and more prepared for the birth. 

Sharing your experience with other parents can also help. Ask your midwife about local parenting classes to help you meet other parents.

“It’s so re-assuring to talk to other parents-to-be who are experiencing a similar rollercoaster of events.”

Ross

Dealing with stress

Getting ready to be a parent can feel overwhelming at times. You may feel under pressure to be happy, strong and supportive for your partner. But it’s important to tell someone how you’re feeling and ask for help if you need it.

“It’s important that the mum gets all the support she needs, but I think men need a support network too. I’m lucky to have close friends who are dads and we’ve been friends for a long time so that support is already there. But I can imagine that a man who doesn’t have that network could feel lonely.”

AJ

Talking to friends and family can help. Joining antenatal classes also gives you the chance to meet other parents. If you feel you need more support, please speak to your GP.

Read more about stress and depression when your partner is pregnant.

Your relationship with your partner

Pregnancy can sometimes put pressure on your relationship and lead to arguments. For example, you may be worried about money or your partner’s wellbeing. Your partner may worry if you seem less interested in the pregnancy than they are, or they may feel less attractive as their body changes. You both may feel differently about having sex during pregnancy.

Being open and honest with each other can help you both feel supported and that you’re working together. Give each other time to speak and try not to dismiss each other’s feelings. Sometimes all you need is to feel heard and understood. 

If you need some professional support, there are organisations that can help. Relate offers couple’s counselling and a live web chat service. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) can help you find a private counsellor in your area.

Unfortunately, some couples split up during pregnancy. If this happens, you can get information and support on being a single parent from Gingerbread

If there is any violence or emotional abuse in your relationship, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and may involve controlling behaviour, threats, violence or sexual abuse. If you’re worried about your own behaviour, you can get support from the Respect Phoneline. Men who are being abused can contact the Respect men’s advice line or Mankind. LGBTQ+ partners can get support from Galop.

Being an LGBTQ+ partner during pregnancy

Many LGBTQ+ couples and partners describe positive experiences with health professionals during pregnancy and labour. But some still face challenges with the healthcare system and a lack of understanding about their family.   
Talking to health professionals

Let the midwife or doctor know what language you would prefer them to use to describe your relationship with your partner and your parenting role. You could also ask them to write this in your partner’s notes so you don’t need to repeat yourself to other health professionals.  

Dealing with questions about your relationship

Sometimes people can ask quite personal questions about how your partner got pregnant or who will be ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. They may be trying to understand your family set-up if it’s not familiar to them. You and your partner will have your own way of dealing with questions but don’t feel that you need to answer them if there’s no medical or legal reason for them. 

We have information about pregnancy if your partner is trans or non-binary.

More support and information

These organisations offer support and information, as well as stories from other LGBTQ+ couples.

LGBT Mummies has information on starting a family and support groups for LGBT+ families.

Proud 2B Parents supports LGBT+ parents/carers 2 b, LGBT+ parents / carers and their children across Greater Manchester and the surrounding area.

Stonewall has information on parental responsibility, adopting, fostering, co-parenting, fertility treatment and surrogacy.

Rajhans P et al (2019) It takes two! Exploring sex differences in parenting neurobiology and behaviour. J Neuroendocrinol. 2019; 31(9): e12721. 

Meijer WM et al (2019) Challenging the challenge hypothesis on testosterone in fathers: Limited meta-analytic support. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2019; 110: 104435.

Rajhans P et al (2019) It takes two! Exploring sex differences in parenting neurobiology and behaviour. J Neuroendocrinol. 2019; 31(9): e12721. 

Baldwin S (2018) Mental health and wellbeing during the transition to fatherhood: a systematic review of first time fathers’ experiences. JBI Database of Systematic Reviews and Implementation Reports 2018; 16(11): 2118-2191.

Darwin Z et al (2021) Assessing the Mental Health of Fathers, Other Co-parents, and Partners in the Perinatal Period: Mixed Methods Evidence Synthesis. Frontiers in Psychiatry 2021; 11: 1260.

Proud 2B Parents. Supporting LGBT+ Parent-led families in Health Care. https://static1.squarespace.com/static/607f2deac93e6d5d20e8968c/t/60bf85857a84d71d35228afa/1623164297948/Health+resource+A4+final+edit.pdf 

Brighton & Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (2020) Perinatal Care for Trans and Non-Binary People https://www.bsuh.nhs.uk/maternity/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2021/01/MP005-Perinatal-Care-for-Trans-and-Non-Binary-People.pdf   

Review dates
Reviewed: 15 June 2022 | Next review: 15 June 2025