Preparing for a baby can be incredibly exciting, from imagining their personality to choosing your favorite names, but it can also be emotionally taxing, particularly if you’re feeling concerned about your partner receiving the best possible care throughout pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period.
You may know about the ways that racism and discrimination can negatively impact Black women and birthing people throughout their pregnancy and parenting journey. All the information and media about disparities in health outcomes for Black women and birthing people can be overwhelming. And it can be hard to know where that leaves you, as a critical part of your partner’s support system. Let’s start with how mental health fits into the picture.
If you think your partner might be experiencing antenatal (before birth) depression or anxiety, encourage them to talk to their provider. The pregnancy period is challenging. They deserve the best possible care. Their treatment plan can include therapy, lifestyle changes, and medication, and will often include all three.
And if you are feeling anxious, know that this is completely normal and there are providers specifically trained to help support you as well. Also, take this time to lean on your community and support system like your friends, parents, extended family, mentors, and trusted neighbors.
Finding the right provider
Encourage your partner to find a provider with whom they feel comfortable. Their provider should communicate empathetically and clearly, should ensure that all your questions are answered, and should make you both feel safe, comfortable, and respected.
If your partner is feeling particularly stressed or anxious, encourage them to write down their concerns as they come up, and bring the list to their appointments. If you’re able to attend appointments together that can be a great way for you to help your partner advocate for themself and make sure that all their questions are answered.
You should both leave feeling calm and confident. If you don’t feel comfortable with the provider, or if your partner feels hesitant to attend your appointments, these could be signs that it’s time to switch to a better fit.
Preparing for baby
As the day you meet your baby comes closer, there is likely so much on your mind: do we have everything we need? What if the baby comes earlier than expected? What do we do if our birth plan doesn’t go as we hope?
Planning for the things you can will help you handle anything unexpected that comes up before and after your baby is born. Here are some ways you can start to prepare:
- If you have other children at home, outline a plan for who will care for them. Think about how this plan may shift if your partner goes into labor earlier than expected.
- Learn about what to expect when you go to the hospital or birthing center.
- If your partner is planning to have a vaginal birth, learn what would happen in the case of an unplanned C-section or Cesarean birth. Learning about this possibility ahead of time, can help you feel prepared in case things change.
- Act as an advocate for your partner if you think their pain or discomfort is not being taken seriously throughout labor and delivery or if an intervention is suggested.
Here’s a simple acronym that can help you remember some key questions to ask your partner’s providers: BRAIN.
B – What are the benefits of this intervention for me?
R – Does this intervention present any risks for me? If so, what are they?
A – Are there any alternatives to this intervention?
I – What is my intuition or gut telling me (based on the information provided)?
N – What if I said “no” or “not now” and we did nothing?
Getting answers to these questions can help you have the information you need to make empowered choices that are right for you.
After baby is born
The importance of advocating for your partner after delivery is as important as before. Your advocacy can help to ensure that they are supported in meeting their feeding goals, and that any mental or physical symptoms that may arise are treated.