Preparing for pregnancy
Once you have decided that you are ready to embark on having a family, there are many ways that you can start preparing for pregnancy.
You may become more aware of your overall health and fitness. It is a good idea to ensure that you are fit and healthy, so exercising and eating well are important to nourish and strengthen your body. It is advised that women take folate to prevent neural tube birth defects, such as spina bifida.
For women, you will also become more aware of your menstrual cycles and the likely timing of ovulation to increase the chances of becoming pregnant.
You are likely to be adjusting your mindset for the potential new role, responsibilities and life that could lie ahead, and the impact on all aspects of your life – your relationship, friendships, social life, finances and leisure time.
Whilst some people instantly envisage life with a child filled with special moments, others may be more focused on the various costs and restrictions that this brings. One of the challenges for some people is that you may not be able to so easily conceptualise what you will feel or receive in return. For some, this can be very challenging, leading to feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility or feeling ‘trapped’. It’s important to identify these thoughts and discuss them, as it can give context and a greater sense of control and relief.
You will also be likely to be adjusting to the notion of parenthood emotionally – in many ways, this may be quite unconscious. For example, you may find yourself paying more attention and perhaps reacting internally to pregnant women in the street or other fathers and the role they play with their young children, as you try to visualise your own life with a child or additional children.
You will also likely begin to contemplate your identity, not so much as an independent person or couple, but rather as a mother, a father – a family. This may lead you to experience a range of responses.
For those in relationships, your internal response to the notion of becoming a parent may feel very natural as you feel ready to embark on this stage of life. For others, however, this may not feel so instinctive. In some cases, each partner may not feel the same way or that they are at the same stage. This may lead to one or both partners feeling uncomfortable, wanting to avoid discussions and/or intimacy.
Whilst it is not easy, it is important that you discuss this with your partner honestly, so that you can acknowledge your feelings and support each other to work out the best way forward, without feeling anxious or resentful – as this can have a detrimental impact on your relationship.
Relationship counselling can be very helpful to enable you both to put the cards on the table. By identifying your concerns and expectations and working through these, you can make an informed and empowered decision about where to next. In some cases, this may lead to separation or there may be a compromise on either side. Either way, by recognising and talking it through, you will be informed and feel more in control of the decisions you make both independently and as a couple.
For those who may be considering having a child on their own, it is important to consider the impacts of having a child on your present and future. You may need to consider what supports you might have available, and how you can draw upon these. Talking with others who have raised children as single parents can provide you with valuable insights and strategies that can support you.