It’s no secret that fathers in South Africa are largely absent and even if they are around, pregnancy may feel like a time that doesn’t really involve them as they don’t have a physical role to play. This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are lucky enough to have a supportive partner help him bond with your bump. It’s a vital process for your baby too. A father’s commitment to the relationship is most deeply affected by their ability to form a close bond early on with their children.
Emotional security and nurturing are crucial to you as a mother during pregnancy, and a loving relationship with an involved father is an endless stream of emotional support to you. Fathers are able to waylay many of the fears you may experience during pregnancy, for example coming to terms with your changing identity and issues of whether you will still be regarded as sexually attractive.
If you feel emotionally supported during pregnancy you are less likely to experience postpartum depression. Fathers who accept their partners’ changing figures and bond with the pregnancy are more likely to bond with their new babies and you are more likely to have fewer body and self-esteem issues during pregnancy.
Babies in utero are not able to distinguish between their mother’s feelings and their own, and therefore your feelings can directly affect the health and wellbeing of your developing baby.
A father who abuses or neglects his pregnant wife is creating one of the most dangerous emotional and physical experiences for his unborn child. If you are in an abusive relationship, you have to find a place of safety for the sake of your child and their future wellbeing.
Research has shown that babies born into unhappy marriages are five times more likely to be more fearful and jumpy than babies born into happy relationships. How fathers treat the mothers and their unborn babies can have a direct effect on the personality formation and character.
Dad's role in the birth:
If dads learn how to support the mother through massage, saying and doing appropriate and helpful things during the labour, he can be a strong source of stability and safety in labour.
Research has shown that women who are adequately emotionally supported (for example when they have a trained birth companion or doula) during labour, require less pain medication or intervention during birth, have shorter births and report greater overall satisfaction with the entire birth experience.
This is also great for early bonding as a family unit. Babies that are born feeling anxious or fearful are more likely to become insecure children and adults. Babies who feel safe and secure early on in their life, are likely to become more secure and confident children and adults.
We know that babies in the womb are aware – they are aware of being loved and wanted. They know they are acknowledged when people talk lovingly to them and respond to their every movement with care and attention. They are aware of the people in their world out there and start to form ideas of whether their world is a safe or threatening place even before they are born.
They are able to recognise voices that they had heard when in utero once they are born. If the father lovingly talked to the unborn baby, the baby forms an emotional connection with the father. Dad’s voice could have a soothing and calming effect for baby because the familiar sound lets baby know he is safe.
Fathers should be encouraged to acknowledge the powerful feelings that emerge as they are involved during pregnancy and birth and allow for their new identity as father to emerge.
In the words of Toledo Blade: “Good parenting is time and energy-consuming, and often mentally and emotionally taxing. But good parenting provides immense personal satisfaction, especially when compared to the devastating fruits of bad parenting.”