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Congratulations! You’ve got a new baby (or babies) on the way! When two lines show up on the at-home pregnancy test, you’re apt to feel a mix of emotions, including excitement, elation, and maybe even fear. Don’t worry. It’s normal to be a little freaked out, especially when you sense that life is about to change profoundly. Your partner is apt to feel the same way.

Fortunately, a full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks — 10 full months gives you and your partner plenty of time to prepare for the big day. Of course, throughout pregnancy, the focus will be on your partner and her growing bump. But you will play an important supporting role. Consider: According to the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), women who have an involved partner during pregnancy lead healthier lives. Babies may be born healthier as well, with lower rates of preterm birth and growth problems.

The first step is to be informed so you can take a more active part in the pregnancy process. Here’s how you can help throughout the stages of pregnancy, which are grouped into three trimesters, to help your partner and your unborn baby thrive. Plus, things a dad should know about pregnancy.

First Trimester Guide for Expecting Dads

What You Need to Know

During the first three months of pregnancy, your baby is rapidly developing. So much is happening on the cellular level; this trimester is when the baby’s bones, muscles, and organs form.

One thing to keep in mind: Your baby’s sex is determined when sperm and egg connect at conception. A woman’s egg carries one X chromosome, and your sperm carries either an X or Y chromosome. If an X-carrying sperm fertilized the egg (an embryo), it will be a girl. If a Y-carrying sperm fertilizes the egg, the baby will be a boy. In other words, girls have two X chromosomes and boys have an X and a Y. Sometimes an ultrasound can reveal the baby’s sex should you not want to wait for the big day!

Inside Story: Your Baby Now

Here's a quick overview of your baby in the first trimester:

  • Month 1: The embryo, at less than an inch long, will develop a head, trunk, and the beginnings of arms and legs. The brain, spinal cord, eyes, ears, and heart will begin to develop, with the heart now beating at a regular rhythm, though not yet detectable on ultrasound.
  • Month 2: Your baby, now called a fetus, is about an inch long — complete with ears, arms, legs, eyes, and eyelids that begin to close to protect your baby’s developing eyes.
  • Month 3: Now over three inches long and weighing about two ounces, the fetus has begun to function. The sex organs have begun to form. Ovarian follicles will begin forming in females and males will have a prostate. He/she can swallow and the kidneys will make urine. With muscles and nerves working together, your baby can now make a fist.

How Your Partner Might Be Feeling

With so much fetal development going on, your partner will likely feel more tired than usual. She may have morning sickness, which can occur at any time of the day or night, with nausea and vomiting symptoms. Mood swings are common during the first trimester too as well as food cravings. Your partner might also develop an aversion to certain smells, which can be different for everyone.

How to Help Your Partner Through the First Trimester

  • Be ready to do whatever. Be supportive of your partner’s needs, no matter what they may be. If she has morning sickness, help her find ways to ease it, such as offering ginger ale and crackers. If she craves certain foods, get them for her, no matter what the hour. If she suddenly can’t stand the taste or smell of certain foods, avoid bringing those into the house or ordering them when you’re eating out together.
  • Help make her health a top priority. Prepare healthy meals together and help make sure she gets plenty of rest. Accompany her to prenatal appointments too, so you can follow along with her pregnancy progress and help with any medical concerns that may arise.
  • Expect hormonal mood swings. Strive to be a calming presence, no matter how steep the rollercoaster of her pregnancy emotions may be. They will eventually pass.

Second Trimester Guide for Dads-To-Be

What You Need to Know

Whew! You both made it through the first trimester when the most critical development has taken place. During the second trimester, weeks 13 through 28, many women have an easier time. Compared to the first trimester, any morning sickness or discomfort may be more tolerable. Most of the heavy lifting is done. Your baby has now developed all its organs and will begin growing in length and weight.

Inside Story: Your Baby Now

Here's a quick overview of your baby, in the second trimester.

  • Month 4: By the end of the fourth month, your baby will be about six inches long and weigh around four ounces. Fine details, such as eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, and hair have formed. The baby’s bones will become denser. On ultrasound at prenatal appointments, you may be able to see your baby yawn, stretch or suck his/her thumb.
  • Month 5: By this time, your partner will likely begin to feel the fetus moving around. Your unborn baby is developing muscles and beginning to exercise them. By the end of the fifth month, baby will be about 10 inches long and weigh as much as one pound.
  • Month 6: By now, your baby will have reddish, translucent skin, with visible fingers and toes. He/she will respond to sounds from outside the womb by moving. His/her eyes can open in-utero. By the end of the 6th month, your baby will be about 12 inches long and weigh around two pounds.
  • Month 7: As your baby matures, the finishing touches start to emerge, such as reserves of body fat. Your baby will change position frequently inside the womb and respond to sound and light. By the end of the month, your baby will be about 14 inches long and weigh two to four pounds.

How Your Partner Might Be Feeling

The second trimester marks a turning point. Compared to the first trimester, it’s generally the most physically enjoyable time for pregnant women. Your partner may feel better physically and have more energy. Morning sickness may go away or improve. Your baby will grow larger and stronger, too, and your partner’s appetite may increase as a result. Get ready to help her feed those pregnancy cravings. Your baby will begin to move around inside the womb, which is an exciting development.

How to Help Your Partner Through the Second Trimester

  • Plan ahead. Talk with your partner about signing up for childbirth education classes. The second trimester is when many couples attend them at the hospital where they plan to give birth. These classes can prepare you both for what to expect during labor and delivery and how you can support your partner during childbirth. Childbirth classes can also be a fun way to meet other expecting parents and future playdate pals.
  • Keep up the good work. Keep encouraging your partner to get the rest she needs, prepare healthy meals together, and attending her prenatal checkups so you can help keep tabs together on any health issues.
  • Enroll to bank your baby’s cord blood. Cord blood is the excess blood left in the umbilical cord after your baby is born. It’s collected at your baby’s birth and stored for later. Your baby's cord blood is an incredible source of potentially life-saving stem cells. To date, there are more than 80 FDA-approved therapies using cord blood stem cells, and cord blood has been used to successfully treat more than 25,000 patients worldwide. You can decide to bank your baby's cord blood can any time before the birth of your baby. But planning ahead has many advantages. Enrolling early ensures that you have plenty of time to receive your cord blood collection kit, so you don’t miss the opportunity in case your baby arrives early.
  • Gear up. Which car seat should you buy? What color should you paint the nursery? Where will your baby sleep initially? Now that things are calmer on the pregnancy front, it’s a good time to team up with your partner to focus on your baby registry and setting up the nursery.

Third Trimester Guide for First-Time Dads

What You Need to Know

During the final stage of pregnancy, months 8, 9, and 10, your baby will continue to grow in size and undergo some finishing touches to prepare for birth, such as growing hair and tiny finger and toenails. As your baby gains weight and prepares to make his/her debut into the world, your partner’s appetite will likely increase. Now’s the time to indulge those pregnancy cravings, if there ever was one.

Inside Story: Your Baby Now

Here's a quick overview of your baby in the third trimester:

  • Month 8: Your baby will continue to develop and build reserves of body fat. On average, your baby will be about 11 inches in length. His/her brain will be developing rapidly now.
  • Month 9: Although most internal organs are fully developed, your unborn baby’s lungs won’t be fully mature until now. Your baby will be able to blink his/her eyes, turn his/her head, and respond to light and sound.
  • Month 10: During weeks 37 through 40, your baby is good to go. Your partner could go into labor at any time. Your baby weighs, on average, about seven pounds and is 18 to 20 inches long by then. As your baby prepares for birth, he/she may change position. Head down in the pelvis is ideal for labor.

How Your Partner Might Be Feeling

With your baby now taking up more space, your partner may have trouble sleeping, walking, and doing her normal routine tasks. Overall, your partner may likely feel generally physically uncomfortable. Still, she may get bursts of energy. Even though she’s coasting toward her due date, she may suddenly want to finish all the laundry, touch up the baby's room and cross everything off her to-do list. The nesting instinct is real.

How to Help Your Partner Through the Third Trimester

  • Help your partner learn about labor. Contrary to popular belief, labor isn't one momentous day. It's a slow process that often starts with painless, labor-like contractions several weeks before your baby’s due date, which signal that your partner’s body is prepping for the big event. Still, it’s easy to confuse very early labor with false labor. To avoid false-alarm trips to the obstetrician’s office or the hospital, learn what true labor will be like. True labor contractions are persistently painful. At first, they might not hurt that much, even if they're strong. Your partner may be able to do the laundry, and even run errands. But, in a few hours, they will stop her in her tracks. She won’t be able to walk or talk through them. And nothing she can do, such as shifting her position, will stop them.
  • Encourage your partner to practice relaxation techniques. As you’re preparing for the big day, encourage your partner to practice deep breathing or water therapy, which can help ease labor pain. During labor, encourage her to take a warm shower or bath if her water hasn't broken, go out for a walk or rest until it’s time to head to the hospital or birthing center.
  • Help your partner stay active. At this stage of the game, your partner may feel tired and unmotivated to exercise. Help her stay active by going for walks together. It’s a bonding experience and may help ease any pregnancy-related discomfort, such as back pain. However, if your partner really isn’t up for it, it’s ok to take time to rest.

Expecting Dads: You Got This!

You’ll learn a lot about pregnancy just by living it with your partner. Still, when you know what’s going on with your baby through the first, second, and third trimesters, and what to expect with your partner along the way, you’ll get so much more out of it. With your know-how, pregnancy can become more of a shared experience — one you’ll never forget.

Put Cord Blood Banking on Your Pregnancy To-Do List

What should a father-to-be do during pregnancy? Research banking your baby’s umbilical cord blood. It’s an important factor to consider during pregnancy that needs to be decided on before your baby is born.

For more information on the vital health benefits of banking your baby’s cord blood, download our Free Info Kit. Our simple comprehensive guide to cord blood and tissue banking can help answer any questions you may have about this important opportunity to invest in your family’s health. For more information, call us at 888.743.2673.

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