Pregnancy can be more stressful for men than the time after baby’s birth. If you and your partner can manage stress and stay relaxed during pregnancy, it’s better for your health – and baby’s.

Why you might feel stress in pregnancy

Men who are expecting a baby can find that things like money worries, relationships and work demands cause them a lot of stress.

Becoming a dad involves lots of change – often all at once. You might be concerned about becoming the family provider – or you might feel you’re not ready to care for a newborn. You could also worry about ‘losing’ time for yourself and your partner or sharing your partner’s attention and affection with a baby.

How your stress can affect your partner and baby

You might think you’re handling your stress or that it’s just ‘your problem’. But too much stress can make you upset, and it can spill over into your relationships with other people. You might be more cranky and tense with others and more likely to argue with your partner.

If you use alcohol, smoking or drugs to cope with stress, you might find yourself using these more than usual. This can lead to even more tension and arguments.

If your stress levels get out of hand, it can lead to stress in your pregnant partner. Unfortunately, this can affect your baby’s health and development as well.

For example, stress in pregnant women is linked to premature birth, low birthweight of baby and developmental delay.

Severe stress in pregnant women – which might be caused by things like marriage break-up, family conflict, violence or poverty – can have negative effects on your baby’s brain development and other areas of development. Stress can also affect your child’s emotions and behaviour in the future.

Dealing with stress in pregnancy

Trying to ‘ride out’ or ignore your stress won’t make it go away. It can build up and get worse for you and the people around you.

Finding ways to deal with life’s stresses is good for you, your partner and your baby.

You could start by learning more about what to expect. The effects of stress aren’t as bad if you’re ready and know what to expect in the first few months with your new baby. You can learn by:

  • looking for information online
  • reading baby and parenting books
  • comparing thoughts with your partner, family or friends who are new dads
  • going to a birth class just for men, if there’s one near you.

Discussing the things you could be stressed about with people you trust is a good step. This can be tricky because men often have fewer chances to talk with others. Many men also find it hard to talk about their fears and emotions. If you can get past the discomfort or awkwardness, sharing what’s going on with someone could help you see things from a different perspective and get clear about the real problems and solutions.

For example, if you’re stressed about supporting your family financially, you could ask another dad you know about how he deals with being a breadwinner, if that’s his experience. He could have some tips or insights to share.

You could also get practical and write a budget. This could be a good start to discussing your spending habits and work arrangements with your partner.

If you’re not coping with stress or you’re getting upset or angry with your partner or other people, it’s a good idea to ask for help. You could talk to your GP or call Lifeline on 131 114 or MensLine on 1300 789 978 for free telephone counselling, 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Things you can do

  • Think about everyday things you could do to make your life less stressful. For example, try listening to music to help you switch off from work, or turn your phone off after you get home.
  • Read our article on feeling stressed.
  • If you’re really stressed, have a chat with someone you can trust – for example, a family member, friend or the man who’s leading your men-only birth class.

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Last updated or reviewed
01-10-2017

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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