Pregnancy reorganises every aspect of a woman’s body, says Dr Njoki Fernandez, an obstetrician and gynaecologist and a wellness practitioner.
“Pregnancy changes a woman’s body due to hormones,” Dr Fernandez explains.
When you become pregnant, progesterone and oestrogen hormones rise dramatically. A new hormone – one that’s special to pregnancy – called human chorionic gonadotropin, begins to be produced.
As the foetus develops, new hormones are secreted (while others fizzle out) and concentrations of hundreds others fluctuate to aid the process of pregnancy.
In short, pregnancy is one elongated hormone fest. As a result, pregnant women are predisposed to physiological, psychological and behavioural changes.
Physiologically, Dr Fernandez says, the woman might suffer swollen legs, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia (hypertension) and a myriad of other afflictions.
Psychologically she might go through major anxiety and mood swings; all of which will affect how she behaves around people.
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Having a supportive spouse, says Lucy Muchiri, a nurse and a doula at Evesmama Birth Centre, would greatly minimise the negative experiences of pregnancy.
What can men do to be supportive during pregnancy?
- Have a good understanding of what she is going through: We live in the age of information. According to Muchiri, it is important that the man understands what pregnancy portends for his spouse. “Read – books or even online – about pregnancy changes. When you have a good understanding of what she is going through you would know how to react when she behaves differently,” Muchiri says.
- Don’t judge her subjectivity: Even before pregnancy, Muchiri notes, women are generally more emotional in their interactions compared to men. Pregnancy exacerbates a woman’s emotional reaction. As such she might be careless with words and her behaviour may be unpredictable. “The woman might be subjective in her behaviour but you, as the man, should react objectively – with the knowledge that she is dealing with pregnancy hormones,” Muchiri says.
- Show interest in the pregnancy process: Knowing that the man is an extension of the pregnancy helps the pregnant woman take it in stride. How do you show interest? “By going with her for clinic visits,” Muchiri says. In the event that attending clinics is not possible, asking questions such as, ‘What did the doctor say? How is the baby? How are you feeling today?’ communicates interest.
- Be in charge of her wellness: It is Muchiri’s opinion that since the man is not doing the ‘heavy’ work of carrying the pregnancy he can take it upon himself to manage his woman’s wellbeing. Muchiri says: “If she has been prescribed medication make sure she takes it on time. Remind her to eat a healthy balanced diet. Keep her active – you can take her for walks. And be mindful of her mental wellbeing.”
- Attend child birth class: This makes sense if it is the couple’s first baby. A birth class, Muchiri says, equips both men and women with knowledge of what to expect and what do when pregnancy comes to term. Ideally, the man should also plan to be in the room during delivery.
- Help with chores at home: As pregnancy progresses from first trimester to second and then third, it becomes increasingly difficult for the woman to perform house chores, notes Muchiri. The man can help with some chores, “or even outsource labour,” Muchiri says. She adds: “What matters is that she is not forced to work in the pregnancy state.”