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Getting ‘dad’ involved: Partners play huge role in pregnancy

By: Ryan Dailey, The Tallahassee Democrat
Published: 7:24 p.m. EDT April 11, 2016
View the video on Tallahassee.com
Dr. David Dixon, who works at North Florida Women's Care at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, talks about how dads can get involved in creating a better pregnancy.    

Dr. David J. Dixon, D.O., remembers “walking the walk” together with his wife during her two pregnancies.

“The walk,” in this case is a simple way to characterize the journey of support, preparation and energy that a couple must undergo in the stages leading to the delivery of a healthy baby.

As a board certified Ob-Gyn, Dixon had a good deal of medical knowledge on his side, playing his role as a supportive partner and helping lead to healthy, normal deliveries of his two children.

“Surely, pregnancy can be an exciting thing for both mom and dad, but it can also be a time full of anxiety,” Dixon said.

At the North Florida Women’s Care offices in Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, Dixon often talks with soon-to-be-fathers who are eager to help alleviate some of the difficulties of pregnancy.

“Obviously, every pregnancy is different and every trimester of every pregnancy is different,” Dixon said. “There are a lot of opportunities for dads to be involved and supportive.”

Dixon identified the first trimester as one that typically is trying for a couple.

“It can be a time of intense fatigue and nausea and just general misery, to the point that it really takes mom out of her role as a partner, as a homemaker and as a professional,” Dixon said.

Some women handle the early stages of pregnancy better than others. However, patients sometimes come to the North Florida Women’s Care offices in their first trimester, according to Dixon, with complaints they can barely make it through the day.

For those pregnant women who need to be resting on the couch to recover after a day of work, or "truly debilitated in some cases," having someone else in the home to prepare meals and take care of everyday chores can mean a world of difference.

It’s not all bad news, though. The second trimester can provide something of a much-needed break.

“The second one usually brings a little relief from the first trimester miseries,” Dixon said. “The changes, hormonally, physically and changes in energy, tend to let up a little bit.

"It’s a time when a lot of women feel a little more like their pre-pregnant self.”

Another, more well-known change that occurs during the second trimester is the arrival of intense hunger and cravings.

“We all are aware of the cravings that can occur when a baby starts growing and getting larger,” Dixon said. “It’s a time that we really try to focus on helping moms live healthy and eat healthy and try to stay active.”

Certain problems with obesity in women can be linked to weight gains during pregnancy, Dixon said. For that reason, it is important to talk about steps that can reduce pregnancy’s toll on the body.

“We’re trying to open the dialogue a lot more now about living healthy during pregnancy, and it definitely helps to have a supportive partner during that.”

The third trimester can bring a new set of physical miseries with a new set of needs for support.

Limitations to mobility and increased swelling and sleeplessness can make pregnant people feel irritable. All of this, of course, while preparing for the “big day” of labor and delivery.

“Anyone that’s been around the birthing process knows it’s undeniably such a positive experience to have a great support system there,” Dixon said. “It even shows in the research studies, it has positive effects on the duration of labor and the birth itself.”

Learning to be a support net for your pregnant partner is not a one-size-fits-all process. Expectant fathers need to seek out the knowledge to be prepared and listen to the mother-to-be.

Going to group classes can work for some fathers; however, others prefer to do research on their own with the vast resources available through the internet, libraries and otherwise. The key is to become informed going into the pregnancy and also during labor and delivery, Dixon said.

“Having a partner who’s willing to step up and realize this is part of the process of bringing their newborn child here, that’s so important.”

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