How your life is going to change

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Everyone expects the news that a baby is on the way to bring nothing but happiness. But some men find the prospect of being a dad worrying rather than joyful.

Dad-to-be, have you ever noticed that you are gaining weight along with your partner during the pregnancy? Do you find yourself feeling queasy at certain times of the day? Have you experienced appetite changes? Then you may be experiencing Couvade Syndrome.

“Couvade” comes from the French word “couvée” meaning "to hatch". It has come to mean a man having a "sympathetic pregnancy." Yes, ladies, this means that your partner could start to vomit, gain weight, and have many of the "joys" associated with pregnancy. Generally, couvade syndrome begins at the end of the first trimester and increases in severity until the third trimester. The only known cure for couvade is birth.

So, dad-to-be, if you're feeling like this, don’t be anxious; you're not alone. For some men, the news of the pregnancy can trigger depression. About 1 in 10 soon-to-be fathers experience depression during their partner's pregnancy.

How will I know if I'm depressed?

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. You may feel low, sad or irritable all the time. You may become aware that you're not handling things as well as you normally do.

These are just some of the symptoms that you may have if you're suffering from depression:

  • Socializing less and avoiding friends.
  • Change in appetite (usually eating less).
  • Unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling anxious or worried.
  • Not doing well at work.
  • Lack of interest in sex.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Sleep problems.

If these symptoms seem familiar, check out how long you've been feeling like this. We all have a bad day or two. But if you have had no relief from these feelings for at least two weeks, you may have depression.

What causes depression?
From the moment you learn of your partner's pregnancy, you're thrown into a strange new world and encouraged to participate in the pregnancy and birth process. Yet, you may feel awkward about sharing your fears and insecurities. That's only natural. Here are the most common fears faced by fathers-to-be:

  • Security fears: Will I be able to protect and provide for my family?
  • Will I be a good dad?
  • Fear for your partner’s or child's health.
  • Is this the end of your independence?
  • Will your relationship and sex life change?

How can I cope with depression?

  • Try to walk, swim, cycle or run at least every other day. It doesn't really matter what the activity is, so long as it gets you moving. Walking is good exercise for your pregnant partner too.
  • Being active every day can pick up your mood, make you feel less tired and give you more energy. To help you feel positive and stay active, you could try taking on a project around the home or in your garden.
  • Eat healthily: Cut out junk food, takeaways and snacks that are high in fat and sugar. Eating healthily really can make you feel better, body and soul.
  • As your partner will want to eat healthily now she's pregnant, this is an opportunity for you to try and make dietary changes together.
  • Healthy eating means eating a mixture of the following:
  • Carbohydrates, that is, starchy foods such as bread and potatoes.
  • Proteins, such as meat, fish and pulses
  • Fruits and vegetables.
  • Dairy products.
  • You don't need to cut out fatty and sugary foods altogether. Just make them a treat, or the smallest portion of what you eat every day.
  • Stick to regular sleep patterns: aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every 24 hours.
  • Keep talking: Discussing how you feel with your partner, or a friend or relative can help. It can be easy to slip into the habit of not seeing other people. But it's worth making the effort to keep up with your friends and other interests, particularly if your relationship is struggling. Your friends care about you. Let them help you by listening.
  • Think positively: To help you stay positive, do things that make you feel good and focus on what you've achieved each day.