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We offer many resources to help you and your partner prepare for your baby. Learn about what to expect during and after pregnancy including labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and when to call us.


As couples prepare for pregnancy, the focus is usually on the mother's health. But there are things you as a partner can do to take care of your health and support the mother before and during her pregnancy, and then when the baby comes home.

As your partner's body changes over the next 9 months and you both prepare for the new baby, your life will be changing, too. You may have mixed feelings about these changes. Sometimes you may feel excited; other times you may worry about all of the changes and wonder if everything will be OK. It's important to have frequent conversations about a baby and to talk about your feelings.

As labor approaches, you may feel a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to anxiety and everything in between. Remember: You're not alone; most expectant partners experience conflicting emotions.

Bringing a new baby into your home can be a joyous and exciting time, but it can also cause a temporary disruption in the family routine. As you get ready for the birth of your baby, you can also prepare your family members for their changing roles and responsibilities.

You can even play a significant role in the success of breastfeeding your new baby by supporting the new mother. As a partner of a new mother, you might think that your role in breastfeeding is a minor one. Not so! Studies show that the attitude of the baby's father is the most important factor in whether a mother begins and continues to breastfeed.

Preparing for a Healthy Pregnancy


It's important to have frequent conversations about having a baby and to talk about your feelings. But how you talk to each other can either strengthen or weaken your relationship. Though it may seem difficult at times, you can learn to improve your conversations so you'll both end up feeling heard and supported. It's important for each of you to know that the other is really listening and that you can talk about your feelings without fear of criticism. Here are some approaches you may want to try:

  • Take turns discussing your excitement about having a child, your dreams, and your plans for the future.
  • Take turns talking about your worries and concerns. If you "reflect" (repeat) what your partner says, she'll know you've heard her. Then she can reflect what you have to say.
  • Talk about your financial situation. Do you need 2 paychecks to pay the bills? How much time off can each of you afford to take? 
  • Talk about how much time you'll take off when the baby is born. Ask your employer if you're eligible to take "family leave" to stay with your partner and your baby. 
  • Talk about religion. Does it matter what religion your baby will be brought up in?

As you and your partner plan for pregnancy, there are things you can do to take care of your health and support your partner before and during her pregnancy, and then when the baby comes home:

  • Eat healthy foods. Choose from whole-grain breads, cereal, rice, and pasta; skim or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt; low-fat meat and chicken; and lots of fruits and vegetables. Making meals with your partner is a fun a way to spend some extra quality time together. 
  • Exercise. Be physically active for at least 150 minutes a week, or at least 30 minutes per day on most days of the week. Try to develop a regular and moderate exercise program that you and your partner can continue during pregnancy. You and your partner will feel better overall, have more energy and less stress, and sleep better. 
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, you are exposing your partner and others to secondhand smoke. Talk with your doctor or other health care professional or visit your Kaiser Permanente Health Education Center if you would like information on quitting smoking. Encourage your partner or other family members to quit smoking with you. It is easier not to smoke when you are surrounded by other nonsmokers. 
  • Stop drinking alcohol and using recreational drugs. If you or someone in your family has a problem with drugs or alcohol, talk to your health care professional. Take the time before you and your partner get pregnant to stop using drugs or alcohol. Kaiser Permanente has programs that can help you quit. For more information, talk with your doctor or other health care professional. 
  • Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases. Diseases that are transmitted through sexual contact can infect and harm your baby. Some examples of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis B and C viruses, and syphilis. It is possible to have an STD even if you don't have symptoms.
  • Check your medications. Talk to your doctor about the medications you're taking. These medications may have an impact on male fertility. 
  • Check your work environment. Ongoing exposure to pesticides, chemicals, and radiation can lower sperm quantity and quality. It can also lead to infertility or miscarriage. 
  • Avoid heat. Heat from hot tubs, saunas, long hot showers, laptops, and electric blankets can decrease sperm quantity for men. 
  • Understand genetic risks. Family histories of both partners are important when planning a pregnancy. If you, your partner, or any close family members (children, parents, sisters/brothers, aunts/uncles) have a history of birth defects or inherited conditions, you may have a higher chance of having a baby with such a condition. A genetic counselor can give you more information about the specific risks to your baby and possible tests you may choose to have. Getting your test results before you and your partner get pregnant will give you time to consider your options. 
  • Take care of your emotional and mental health. Your stress level and how you are feeling can affect your health as well as the health of your children. Stress can cause decreased sperm quantity. Regular exercise, healthy eating, and plenty of sleep can help lower your stress level. If you are feeling sad or depressed, this can affect the health of your partner and child. Talk to your doctor if you have feelings of depression or anxiety.
Dealing with infertility

Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after trying for at least 1 year without using birth control. About 15 percent of couples are infertile. The most common cause of male infertility is a varicocele (say: "var-ih-koh-seal"). A varicocele is made up of enlarged veins in the scrotum (the skin "sack" that hangs beneath the penis) on 1 or both sides. The veins make the inside of the scrotum warmer and can reduce sperm production by the testicle on the same side.

Other factors that may affect fertility include tobacco smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and use of drugs, emotional stress, obesity, and age (fertility gradually decreases in men who are older than 35). Sometimes the cause of male infertility cannot be identified. In these cases, there may be an underlying genetic problem.

Difficulty Becoming Pregnant

Sometimes getting pregnancy takes time. It may not happen as quickly as you would like. This may depend on many factors, including your age.

Couples under the age of 35 are considered to be infertile if they have not been able to conceive after 12 months of having sexual intercourse at least 2 to 3 times a week without using any form of birth control.

Couples 35 or older that have not conceived after 6 months of having sexual intercourse at least 2 to 3 times a week without using any form of birth control may have a fertility problem.

Infertility Can Affect Men and Women

Infertility in men can be caused by problems with:

  • Sperm (volume, count, shape, movement)
  • The testicles 
  • Prostate gland 
  • Varicocele (an abnormally large vein in the scrotum) 
  • Chronic illness 
  • Medications 
  • Hormone levels

Infertility in women can be caused by problems with:

  • Egg quality
  • Ovulation factors 
  • The cervix, uterus, and/or fallopian tubes
  • Unhealthy body weight 
  • Hormone levels

Treatments for Infertility

An infertility workup may consist of:

  • A sperm analysis.
  • Blood tests. 
  • Radiological imaging studies like a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) or ultrasound. An HSG is a dye test that looks at whether the tubes are open and if there are any abnormalities in the uterus. The ultrasound could see if there are any abnormalities in the uterus or ovaries. 
  • Outpatient surgery like a hysteroscopy (an exam of the uterus with a small camera) or, less commonly, a laparoscopy (looking inside the belly with a camera).

Treatments for infertility could include: 

  •  Stimulating ovulation using pills 
  •  Hormone shots or hormone medications 
  •  Intrauterine insemination 
  •  In vitro fertilization

Helping out During Pregnancy

Support and care for your partner

As your partner's body changes over the next 9 months and you both prepare for the new baby, your life will be changing, too. You may have mixed feelings about these changes. Sometimes you may feel excited; other times you may worry about all of the changes and wonder if everything will be OK. You may sometimes feel left out and wonder how you can stay involved in the pregnancy. These feelings are normal, and there are things you can do to stay involved.

Learn about the baby as it grows and care for your partner. Try some of these ways to let her know that you care:

  • If possible, go to prenatal appointments with your partner. It helps to write these dates in your calendar (especially toward the end of the pregnancy, when the visits occur more frequently). 
  • Learn about breastfeeding before the baby's birth. Attend a breastfeeding class with your partner. You can also rent a video or read books on breastfeeding. 
  • Tell your partner if you're feeling left out during these visits. It can help if you spend time together each night to talk about your daily experiences, including what you notice about the pregnancy. 
  • Listen to the baby's heartbeat in the doctor's office. Hearing the baby makes the pregnancy more "real." 
  • Tell your partner about your feelings and ask her about her feelings, too. Don't withdraw when you're feeling bad. 
  • Talk about weight and appearance in a positive way. 
  • Take an infant CPR class together. Your local Health Education Center can help you find a class. 
  • Offer to set up and participate in interviews with possible childcare providers. 
  • Discuss your fears with your partner and listen to hers. Communication is a key ingredient in strengthening a relationship.
Take care of yourself

Like your partner, your emotions will probably go through many changes during the pregnancy. Find time to take care of yourself and let off steam.

  • Take a walk or drive by yourself. 
  • Exercise or do something else you enjoy. 
  • Spend time with a friend. 
  • Talk to new parents about their experiences. 
  • If you feel very angry, upset, or sad for more than a week, ask your practitioner to refer you to a counselor.
Quit smoking

If you've quit smoking, congratulations! If you smoke, try to stop now for the baby's health.

  • Children from smoking households have 4 times as many respiratory infections (lung, sinus, and ear infections) as those from nonsmoking households. 
  • Now is an important time to stop. The baby will be exposed to toxins from your clothing even if you smoke outdoors, as will any other children you have. 
  • If you've quit smoking, it's important to stay smoke-free during pregnancy and after the baby is born. Not smoking will help your health and the health of your family. You've worked hard to stop smoking. Use your new skills to remain smoke-free. 
  • Encourage your partner or other family members to quit smoking with you. It's easier not to smoke when you're surrounded by other nonsmokers. Support each other in staying smoke-free. 
  • Talk with your practitioner or visit your local Health Education Center for help with quitting smoking or staying quit. Some facilities offer smoking cessation programs specifically for pregnant women.
Talk to the baby

Amazing as it might seem, babies can hear you talk to them months before they are born. Research has shown that babies hear sounds outside the mother's womb and they respond by kicking or moving.

Talking to the baby will help her recognize your voice and be comforted by it, both now and after birth. Decide with your partner about good times to talk to the baby. Choose times when both of you feel relaxed and happy, such as in the evening or just before going to sleep.

Baby-proof your home

Your newborn is home from the hospital, but is your home ready for your newborn? Even before your child is crawling and toddling around, your house needs some basic safety measures. Here's what you need to know to make your home safe for your baby:

  • Don't place the crib next to a window, radiator, vent, wall lamp, or electrical outlet. If you have to place it near one of these things, make sure it is at least 3 feet away. 
  • Follow your crib's assembly instructions. (This is not the time to wing it.) For example, crib slats should not be more than 2-3/8 inches apart. Corner posts should be no more than 1/16 of an inch above the end panels. 
  • Fit the mattress snugly in the crib. 
  • Don't place pillows, stuffed animals, or fluffy comforters in the crib until your child is 1 year old. These items can suffocate your child. 
  • Remove mobiles and other toys that hang from the crib once your child can reach them. 
  • Install and use the safety belt on the changing table. 
  • Place the changing table against a wall. It's a good idea to bolt it to the wall. 
  • If you don't have carpet on the floor, place rugs or pieces of carpet under the changing table. This will break the baby's fall if he/she falls off the table.
Feel confident about childbirth

You're supposed to be strong and supportive, especially while your partner is pregnant, right? Actually, you might feel a little worried as labor approaches.

There are a few things you can do to decrease anxiety and feel more confident about childbirth:

  • Take a childbirth preparation class. Once you know what to expect, much of the fear and anxiety should go away. 
  • In the classes, you'll learn how to actively support your partner by using relaxation techniques such as massage and deep breathing. Practice these techniques with your partner to become comfortable doing them. 
  • Trust yourself.
Get your vaccinations
  • Pertussis vaccination. Whooping cough (also called pertussis) is a contagious disease that can spread easily from person to person through coughing. It's very serious for babies. Other family members who will be around your baby should also get the vaccine as soon as possible. You can check to see if you have been properly vaccinated against whooping cough by viewing your Preventive Services online.
  • Flu vaccine. Help prevent the flu by getting an annual flu vaccine. Flu vaccine helps prevent respiratory flu all season long. October or November is the best time to get the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is recommended for adults and children over 6 months of age. Children under the age of 6 months should not get the flu vaccine.
Learn about vaccinations for babies

As you and your partner prepare for the baby, you may want to consider the benefits of immunizing your newborn. Here are some facts about immunizations (vaccinations), to help you as you decide what is best for the baby and your family.

Immunizations help children as well as communities stay healthy by preventing widespread outbreaks of disease. Kaiser Permanente has carefully reviewed the research on vaccines – both the benefits and risks. Overall, it is more dangerous for a child to risk getting ill with a preventable disease such as whooping cough (pertussis) than it is to risk having a reaction to the vaccine. Consider these key facts:

  • Immunizations are very safe. Hundreds of scientific studies have concluded that vaccines do not cause autism. 
  • As a precaution, vaccines for children under the age of 3 are made without any thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, even though studies have found no connection between thimerosal and autism. 
  • Most babies and children will have no side effects or will have only mild reactions to vaccines, even when multiple shots are given at one time. 
  • Not getting the right vaccinations at the right time could make your child more vulnerable to certain diseases and make more injections necessary in the long run. 
  • Without immunizations, your child could infect other children or adults.

Your immunization decisions affect not only the health of your child but also the rest of your family and your community. Help your baby, your family, and your community to be healthy by staying up to date with the recommended immunizations.

Additional References:

Your Role in Labor and Delivery

As labor approaches, you may feel a variety of emotions, ranging from excitement to anxiety and everything in between. Remember: You're not alone; most expectant partners experience conflicting emotions. Perhaps you're concerned about your ability to support your partner during labor and delivery, or maybe you're afraid that you'll simply "fall apart" when you see her in pain and she needs you the most.

There are 2 major things that you can do to decrease this anxiety:

Know what to expect. Much of the fear and anxiety may disappear if you know what to expect during labor and delivery. You can help your partner by:

  • Taking her safely to the hospital 
  • Helping her get comfortable in her hospital room 
  • Breathing with her through contractions 
  • Helping her focus 
  • Timing her contractions 
  • Encouraging her and giving her positive feedback 
  • Offering comfort with music, a massage, a cool cloth for her face, ice chips, water or juice, or a shower or bath 
  • Asking a friend or family member to record the event so that you're free to assist your partner

Trust yourself. Most labor support people rise to the occasion. For example, in a study of more than 200 expectant fathers, not a single one "fell apart" during his partner's labor.

Trust yourself to respond to her needs in a natural way. Listen to her and watch for her nonverbal cues, then respond accordingly.

When Baby Comes Home

Parenthood: A new beginning for everyone

Bringing a new baby into your home can be a joyous and exciting time, but it can also cause a temporary disruption in the family routine. As you get ready for the birth of your baby, you can also prepare your family members for their changing roles and responsibilities. After the birth, you and your partner need to make decisions about sharing responsibility for baby care and housework. Your baby will demand a great deal of attention in the first weeks after birth, and it may be difficult to focus on your own needs. The more you participate, the sooner your partner will recover, and the sooner you'll see a balance return to your family. Try to keep the lines of communication open as you share the joy and work of new parenting.

Ease into the parenting role

Whatever kind of delivery your partner has, she'll need some time (probably more than either of you think) to fully recover. Fatigue, breast soreness, vaginal discomfort, hemorrhoids, poor appetite, constipation, increased perspiration, acne, hand numbness or tingling, dizziness, and hot flashes are common for a month after delivery. Fatigue and soreness may be increased if she has had a cesarean delivery.

Here are some things that you can do to make her recovery process as smooth as possible. These tips will also help you ease into the parenting role. Try to:

  • Help your partner resist the urge to do too much too soon. 
  • Help her rest during the day and nap when the baby sleeps. 
  • Take over the household chores or ask someone else to help. 
  • Be patient with yourself, your partner, and the baby. 
  • Control the visiting hours and the number of visitors at any given time. If visitors volunteer to help, have a list of things they can do, such as laundry, errands, etc. Dealing with visitors takes a lot more energy than you might think. Try to cluster their visits at mealtimes when your partner will be awake and avoid visits during rest times. Remember to have visitors wash their hands before holding the baby and don't allow anyone to smoke around the baby. 
  • Enjoy this time with your baby. Although it might not seem so at the time, the newborn period is very brief and is a special time that you'll always remember. 
  • Keep your sense of humor.
"Baby" the baby

Physical contact helps you connect with your baby and encourages growth and development. You will want to:

  • Spend time holding, caressing, or singing to your baby. 
  • If your baby is fussy, try walking around with the baby in a front pack. 
  • Rock your baby while you're relaxing at night. 
  • Change and bring your baby to your partner for nighttime feedings for the first 1 to 2 weeks and take turns afterwards. 
  • Enjoy bath time as playtime.
"Mother" the mother

Although the new mother is expected to fall into her role naturally, most women need some time to get used to the new experience of being a mother. Your partner will need your support, encouragement, and love to ease her adjustment to her new role. Try the following approaches to support your partner:

  • Offer to take care of your baby for a little while so she can go out by herself or with friends.
  • If possible, go with her to bring your baby to the doctor for checkup visits. 
  • Make dinner or bring home food. 
  • When you get home from work, offer to take care of your baby for a little while so she can have some time to relax. 
  • Make special dates to go out together or share a meal. 
  • Schedule some time to be alone with each other. 
  • Bring her flowers. 
  • Tell her often that you love her. 
  • Give her a massage. 
  • Go for a walk together. 
  • Go out on a date and talk about things other than the baby. 
  • Read to her. 
  • Give her support when you're with friends and relatives. 
  • Tell her what a wonderful mother she is.
Limit home visitors

During the first 2 weeks at home, limit your visitors and the time they stay. People who have colds or other infections shouldn't visit, and smoking should never be allowed. You need to be firm about this rule. Be realistic about entertaining, too. You may need to post your visiting hours or leave them prerecorded on your answering machine. Your partner may want to rest and relax in a nightgown or robe for the first few days at home. This reminds her and visitors that she is still recovering from childbirth. Remember to make her comfort a priority.

Decide on birth control methods

Now is a good time to help your partner choose the right birth control method to use after the baby is born. When choosing a birth control method, it's important to decide if you both would like to have more children, how long you both would like to wait before becoming pregnant again, and if your partner decides to breastfeed the baby so the birth control does not interfere with breastfeeding. If you and your partner do not wish to become pregnant again for a while, a very effective method is recommended, such as an intrauterine device (IUD), Depo-Provera (3-month injectable), Implanon (3-year contraceptive implant), or birth control pills. Permanent sterilization, vasectomy, and tubal ligation are also available if you are both sure you do not want any more children. These are surgical procedures that are not reversible. Condoms are also effective and provide protection against HIV and other STDs.

Additional References:

Breastfeeding: What Partners Can Do

As a partner of a new mother, you might think that your role in breastfeeding is a minor one. Not so! Studies show that the attitude of the baby's father is the most important factor in whether or not a mother begins and continues to breastfeed.

Your instinct may be to protect your new family. One way you can do that is by supporting your partner's decision to breastfeed. Support and encourage your partner to breastfeed, especially when she may feel frustrated. You can read books about breastfeeding or attend classes on breastfeeding with your partner. You can also help by discouraging others from criticizing your partner's decision to breastfeed, especially in the early weeks.

Find your own way to have fun with the baby. This will help you build a relationship with your baby. Take charge of baths, walk baby around in a soft carrier, or be the one to introduce squeaky toys and rattles. And remember, new babies love to nap on dad's warm chest.

Ways to help your partner breastfeed

Your partner is recovering from the physical and emotional challenges of childbirth and will appreciate all the help she receives. Here are some ways that you can help:

  • Change the baby's diapers. 
  • Bring the baby to your partner for night feedings and take him or her back to bed. 
  • Burp, change, and bathe the baby. 
  • Share the household chores and cooking to give your partner time to rest. 
  • Try to quit smoking. If you do smoke, go outside the house. Contact your practitioner or Health Education Center if you need help to quit smoking. 
  • Learn about breastfeeding before the baby's birth. Attend a class with your partner. You can also rent a video or read books about it.

Related Health Tools:

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If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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