What to Expect When Pregnant for the First Time

How will pregnancy affect my moods, my energy, and my mental outlook? How will it impact my relationship with my spouse? I've just become pregnant for the first time and I'm not quite sure what to expect.

The ups and downs of pregnancy take many couples by surprise. Most people seem to know that the woman’s abdomen will swell and that she may experience odd cravings. But in many cases they’re unprepared for some of the deeper and more subtle aspects of pregnancy – especially its potential effects upon the marital relationship.

In the first place, they may not realize that men and women experience and react to the early stages of pregnancy in different ways. A woman tends to be more aware of the new life inside, since she’s inescapably connected to the baby. Her husband, on the other hand, may have a feeling that some strange invisible force is altering his wife and his world in mysterious ways that he can’t understand. In his mind, the whole experience may be enveloped in aura of unreality until he finally sees an ultrasound image or hears the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

Then there’s morning sickness. Nausea may become an issue for the wife, especially during early pregnancy. Each woman and couple has a different experience of this phase of the process. Symptoms may be minor or severe enough to require medical attention. If it helps to eat saltine crackers before getting out of bed in the morning (as it does in some cases), the husband can help by bringing them to his wife’s bedside.

Fatigue is another issue that doesn’t get a great deal of publicity. You can’t see it, but a pregnant woman’s body is working very hard. She’s likely to need much more sleep than either partner anticipates. It’s not uncommon for a wife in this condition to nap in the evening, get a full night’s sleep, and then want to go back to dreamland a few hours after awakening.

Mood swings, which are usually related to hormonal changes, are also very common in pregnancy. They can be difficult for husbands to understand, and this in turn can put pressure on the marriage. When you encounter these emotional ups and downs, remember that they’re temporary. Give each other the benefit of the doubt and try to keep your reactions under control until the episode has a chance to pass.

You should also expect to experience some sleep problems as the preborn baby grows and it becomes more difficult to find a comfortable resting position. Ask your doctor about the special pillows designed to help women with this problem. The husband may also find his rest interrupted by a restless wife, so you’ll need to work on this challenge together, always keeping in mind that it, too, will pass.

It’s also likely that pregnancy will require interruptions in your sex life at some point. Your physician is the only one who can accurately advise you about sexual relations during pregnancy. Couples may be instructed not to have intercourse toward the end of pregnancy. In some cases, the doctor may advise against sexual relations at other stages. If the doctor okays sexual intercourse, you and your spouse may have to experiment with different positions in order to find something that’s comfortable and workable. The important thing is to maintain physical closeness throughout this time. Pregnancy can be a vulnerable, challenging period in any marriage, but talking about these issues can lead to an increased sense of connection and bonding.

As the due date approaches, you may also find yourselves plagued with fears about your baby’s health. This is a common experience during pregnancy. It’s best to direct questions of this kind to your physician while also making your concerns known to the Lord in prayer. Some couples attempt to deal with their uncertainties in this area by undergoing tests to determine the condition of their unborn child. Others choose to avoid this, reasoning that test results, whatever the prognosis, wouldn’t influence them to terminate the pregnancy in any case. Whatever your decision, it’s helpful to understand that screening tests are not perfect and do have limitations.

You may also have worries about your ability to function as effective parents. If so, you should realize that it’s normal to wonder whether you’re up to the job. You don’t want to make light of the task you’re assuming, but at the same time there’s a sense in which you need to take your own anxieties with a large grain of salt. Many other nervous moms and dads have successfully passed this way before you.

If you’d like to discuss any of this at greater length, feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department. Our counselors would be pleased to assist you in any way they can.


Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

Praying Through Your Pregnancy: An Inspirational Week-by-Week Guide for Moms-to-Be

Preparing My Heart for Motherhood 

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