Preparing for Fatherhood

Father cuddling newborn and kissing baby on the head


The most exciting time of your life can often also feel like the scariest and most stressful: parenthood. It’s thrilling knowing that you’ll be a parent soon, but it can also leave you feeling massively unprepared and nervous. We’re here to help. In this article, we will be giving you a complete breakdown of what it takes to prepare for fatherhood. Just because you aren’t the one going through pregnancy doesn’t mean that it won’t take effort on your side. But don’t worry! Stick around, and you’ll be ready to be a first-time dad.

Start Your Research

The first and most critical component of preparing to be a new dad is doing your research. Healthline says that doing research can help a new father “feel involved” in the whole process. There is a wide variety of resources on fatherhood and what it takes to be a great dad, but one of the best sources of helpful concrete wisdom is books. has compiled a list of the 14 most helpful books for expectant fathers: you can read it here. Moving on to what research truly entails. You’ll need to research four major elements to get ready to be a new dad: pregnancy, birth, and newborn/infancy. Let’s explore each one individually to understand better what you’ll need to research and the best places to find that information.

future father reading book next to pregnant woman, as if he's reading to the baby

Pregnancy Stage

Pregnancy can be a turbulent and stressful time for your partner; remember, she has to carry the weight of being a new parent while she’s carrying the baby. You only have to do one of those things. Through pregnancy research, you will better understand what your partner is going through and how you can help. Britannica offers an insightful description of the science behind pregnancy, but it fails to break down the process by stages. There are four main stages of pregnancy: conception, first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester. Live Science gives a more in-depth explanation of the nuances of each stage.


About two weeks after a period, ovulation occurs, during which the ovaries release one or more eggs. These eggs can be fertilized by a sperm cell between 12 to 24 hours after release as the egg travels down the fallopian tubes. Here are some tips to help you increase the chances of conceiving. Your baby’s sex is determined at fertilization, depending on if the egg receives an X or a Y chromosome from the sperm cell. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the fertilized egg will then move to the lining of the uterus in about three to four days, attaching to the uterine wall. The cells begin to grow, eventually becoming the fetus and the placenta. The placenta offers oxygen, nutrients, and hormones from the mother’s blood to the developing fetus via the umbilical cord.

First Trimester

It is when the first trimester begins. This stage of pregnancy lasts between 1 and 12 weeks, and your pregnant woman will experience many symptoms during this time. Her body is adjusting to the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Here are some of the symptoms you’ll need to help your partner through during these first 12 weeks:

Nausea and Vomiting

It is commonly known as morning sickness, although it can strike at any time of day. To help your partner, make sure she’s eating slowly and in small amounts every few hours. Help her choose foods that are low in fat. Keep her drinking plenty of fluids.

Food Cravings

Pregnancy can cause your partner to become more sensitive toward certain smells, and her sense of taste might change. It can result in powerful cravings for certain foods. When this happens, be the provider. Go out and get anything that she’s craving without asking twice. It will help ease her during otherwise stressful times.


During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone levels can shoot up, making a pregnant woman sleepy. Let her rest as much as she needs to. Pick up chores and tasks around the house without her asking. It’ll show her that you’ll be helping just as much once the baby arrives.

Young man husband doing clothing ironing at home

Breast Tenderness

WebMD says this is one of the earliest signs of pregnancy and can last throughout the entirety of the first trimester. When she complains about it, go out and buy her a new bra that’s one size larger. Many women report this significantly helps with pain and comfort.

The first trimester is also when you and your partner will need to find prenatal care. It is an important part of any healthy pregnancy and something where you need to be present. Try to attend prenatal appointments.

Second Trimester

Now it’s time for the second trimester. It begins at around 14 weeks and lasts until week 27. During this time, your partner will start looking and feeling more pregnant.  It’s a positive experience for many because this is also when morning sickness and fatigue start to fade away, as new symptoms take their place.

Weight Gain

Having a growing fetus inside you can certainly contribute to weight gain during this trimester, leaving a pregnant woman feeling insecure about her appearance.  Help her feel confident and sexy, no matter how much weight she gains.

Increased appetite

Your partner might start experiencing an increased appetite during the second trimester. Do your best to be the chef of the house during her pregnancy.  It’ll go a long way in helping curb her nausea (many smells can bother pregnant women).

Stretch Marks

Hormonal changes in pregnancy can affect your partner’s skin and make her more likely to get stretch marks. When the middle layer of skin (dermis) becomes stretched and broken in places, it can happen. Whether or not your partner gets stretch marks depends on her skin type, as some people’s skin is more elastic. So what can you do to help? It goes back to making her feel sexy during pregnancy. Giving birth is a beautiful process, and sometimes you need to help her see that beauty.

Antenatal classes

You and your partner should also consider going to antenatal classes. These classes will teach you a variety of things, such as preparing for labor, the different signs of labor, the different stages of labor, the various birthing positions, relaxation and breathing skills to use during labor, early parenting, breastfeeding, and even newborn baby behavior. To find antenatal classes near you, talk to your midwife or doctor. These classes fill up quickly, so try and book your spot around 20 weeks.

diverse group of people at a prenatal class

Third Trimester

Finally, we have the third trimester. It marks the home stretch of your pregnancy as you prepare for the delivery of your baby. It lasts from 29 weeks to 40 weeks. The fetus is growing large in weight and size, and the baby’s body systems finish maturing. Many pregnant women experience mild and irregular contractions called Braxton Hicks contractions and a variety of other physical and emotional symptoms. However, it’s harder for us men to help with this set of symptoms directly. Instead, here are other ways you can start to prepare for birth:

  • Familiarize yourself with the signs of birth. It is critical to having a successful delivery on the big day. Get to know the various signs that your partner is about to go into labor to know when it’s time to go to the hospital.
  • Help devise a birthing plan. Creating a birthing plan with your partner can truly help you feel like you’re a part of the process and help let you know your partner’s wishes. Joining in this process can give you an idea of what will happen, what you will see, and how you can best support your partner during labor.
  • Talk to other parents. If you have concerns about your baby’s birth or health, talk to your partner, friends, family members, or even your doctor to have your questions answered. Getting support from others can help you provide optimal support to your partner.
  • Watch birthing videos. It will help you prepare for what you’ll see during delivery.

Birth Stage

The next stage of pregnancy comes at you quickly: delivering the baby. Many dads feel helpless during this time. There are plenty of ways for you to be there for your partner and help her through this.

First, pack your hospital bag. Most pregnant women ready their hospital bags long before the due date. Since you’ll likely be spending the night there, ready your bag. Here are some things to take:

  • A change of clothes
  • Comfy shoes and extra socks
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant
  • Any needed medications
  • A phone and charger to keep loved ones updated
  • Snacks

Next, help her time her contractions. Many hospitals don’t admit women until their contractions are painfully close together, coming every 3 to 5 minutes. You should take the initiative and start timing the contractions, so you both know how things are progressing. Contractions are timed in seconds from the beginning of one contraction to the next. Count the frequency of contractions in minutes. However, don’t get obsessive about timing the contractions because it can make labor seem longer than it is. Here’s a rule of thumb to know when to go to the hospital: if the contractions are five minutes apart or less, they last more than 30 seconds, and this pattern continues for an hour, then it is time to make the trip.

Lastly, help your pregnant partner stay focused and relaxed during delivery. It’s an extremely painful and difficult undertaking to deliver a baby, and it’s your job to offer encouragement and keep her in the best frame of mind. Suggest different breathing techniques for her, give her something to focus on to take away from the pain of contractions, and suggest position changes when you notice things getting rough. Offer to give her a massage or a foot rub; anything to keep her mind occupied.

woman preparing for birth, with husband and nurse by her side

Newborn/Infancy Stage

Boom! Your baby has been born! You’ve held your son or daughter, and felt like the king of the world. Now it’s time to go home. It’s likely that your partner may be experiencing some postpartum depression – otherwise known as the baby blues. It generally occurs within the first two or three days after delivery and can last for up to two weeks. These conditions are characterized by crying spells, irritability, anxiety, loss of interest, feelings of hopelessness, and excessive worrying. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Research shows that women who receive consistent support from their partners recover faster.
  • The longer you pretend that the depression will go away by itself or deny it is happening, the longer her recovery will take.
  • The more you expect of her, the more difficult her recovery will be.

Help her find treatment via medication or psychotherapy. Tell her you’re there for her, and that things will get better. Ask her to tell you what you can do to help, then do it. Never tell her to get over this, or that you’re tired of this. Don’t say this should be the happiest time of your life. These statements will only further drive her depression.

What You’ll Need to Have on Hand

The newborn and infancy stages require many supplies to get ready for the baby. Here is a list of what you’ll need.

Nursery Items

  • Crib or co-sleeper
  • Crib mattress
  • Changing table
  • Baby monitor, if you have a big house
  • 2 fitted crib sheets
  • Several thin cotton receiving blankets
  • 2 waterproof mattress protectors
Pregnant African American mother looking on as her husband reads crib assembly instructions

Feeding Gear

  • About 8 bottles with newborn nipples (try several brands to find the one your baby prefers)
  • Bottle-cleaning brush or a dishwasher basket
  • Bottle-drying rack
  • Several weeks’ worth of baby formula to start
  • 6 or more cotton bibs
  • 6 or more burp cloths (cloth diapers do the job)
  • Insulated cooler/carrier for outings

Breastfeeding Gear

  • Nursing pillow
  • 2-3 nursing bras
  • 2-3 boxes of nursing pads
  • 6 or more cotton bibs
  • 6 or more burp cloths (cloth diapers do the job)

Diaper Gear

  • 2 packs of newborn diapers to start
  • Wipes
  • Diaper rash ointment
  • Waterproof changing table pad
  • 2-3 changing table pad covers (usually cotton or terry cloth)
  • Diaper pail or trash can with a lid

Check out this comprehensive list by to learn even more supplies you need to buy.

Talk to Your Dad

It is a powerful tip to transform your approach to fatherhood. It takes your limited perspective and dramatically increases it. Your father likely went through the same fear, stress, and nervousness when you were being born. He probably didn’t know what to expect, how to be a good father, and how to raise a great child. But guess what? You turned out just fine. Go lean on your old man for advice!

Ask him what he did to help your mom throughout the first, second, and third trimester. Ask him what symptoms were worst for her and how he dealt with them. Ask him if he ever had a birth plan, and what he did during labor. Was he actively involved? Was he scared and looking away? If he was, ask him how he overcame that fear. Once you were born, ask him what responsibilities he took over. What kind of routine did he establish? How did he and your mom switch out duties? These practical questions will directly arm you with valuable knowledge to help prep you for parenthood.

If you want to look further down the road, talk to your father about fundamental parenting strategies. What kind of dad did he want to be? How did that translate to his way of parenting you? What would he change, if anything? Each question holds limitless potential for enlightening you with useful information that you can apply to raise your child.

Father and adult son sitting on couch, laughing and talking


We talked about tips on conceiving a child and pregnancy symptoms during each trimester.  We offered advice on how you can help battle each symptom and help your partner feel better. We discussed the actual birthing stage. We dove into the newborn and infancy stage. We talked about how many women deal with postnatal depression and how you can be there for her. We also gave you a brief list of items you’ll need during this time in your life (it does not cover everything!).  We offered our best tip: talk to your father. He can shed light on things you’ve never even thought of: we guarantee it.

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