Am I ready to be a parent?

Parenting is the most rewarding job in the world, but it is not easy. You will need support as babies require constant care, so ask yourself this, do you have friends or family nearby?   

Interestingly, during pregnancy or soon after birth, many single parents and couples move closer to family members [often a mother or moth-in-law], so they can get the help and support they need. Not everyone has this luxury, and there are plenty of us out there going it alone!  

When your bundle of joy arrives, you will need as much help as possible, both from a practical and mental perspective. From running errands and receiving hand-me-downs to having a chat with other Dads, you will need to nurture a support network. ManDad is setting up Clubz in 2022 – take a look

Should I go to the doctor?

Once you have both agreed on having a baby, you may wish to get professional medical advice. In the first instance, contact your GP, who can offer tips on your health, diet and lifestyle, as well as provide Mum-to-be with a check-up, so that her pregnancy is as healthy as possible.

Is my relationship ready?

Even the strongest relationships can feel the strain of parenthood. You both need to be agreed on the reasons for wanting a child and discuss what parenting will look like. You may have different experiences and opinions on routine, feeding, discipline, and education.

Remember: creating a family should be rewarding, bringing you and your partner closer together.   

Having a baby will change your life forever, so you will need plenty of communication and commitment. Here are some things to consider:

  • How stable is your relationship with your partner?
  • Do you both want a baby?
  • Do you have the finances to care for a child?
  • How will your day-to-day routines change?
  • What will be the childcare arrangements?
  • What will happen if your relationship ends?

This last one is a toughy. No one enters into a relationship expecting to break up; unfortunately, many relationships don’t work out. Having kids is one thing that can cause parents to go their separate ways. Priorities change, arguments break out, frustrations build. And having a baby will not ‘fix’ a broken or struggling relationship, so be sure not to enter into baby-making conversations if you are at odds with each other.

Finally, don’t try to be perfect. None of us are! We are all muddling through, trying to do and be the best we can be. Modern society has placed so much pressure on parents. We judge ourselves and each other, and we constantly compare – not only ourselves but our children. We feel guilty for not doing enough, and often as Dads, we don’t know where or how we fit into the child-rearing equation.
Never fear, ManDad is here!

Dad, accept that you are never going to have enough time or money and just get on with it! There is never a perfect time to start a family, and of course, accidents happen! So, don’t beat yourself up. Stick with us, connect with other Dads, and we’ll help each other out. 

Quit smoking

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that enjoying a regular fag can potentially cause fertility problems by lowering the quality of sperm and the sperm count. Smoking also causes male sexual impotence, while passive smoking can affect female fertility.   If you need some support to quit smoking, register for the NHS Smoke-free emails  

Cut down on alcohol

Regular drinking above recommended alcohol levels can cause problems with fertility for both men and women. Try to limit yourself to 14 units of alcohol per week, spread over several days. High alcohol consumption can mean you lose interest in sex while having lower testosterone and sperm count.

Watch your weight

Being overweight can reduce the quality and quantity of your sperm, which could lead to problems when trying to conceive. There is also some evidence to suggest that your weight could affect your child’s obesity level.

Feed your fertility

Having a healthy, balanced diet can improve the quality of your sperm. Research has shown that overeating processed food containing saturated and trans fats can have a negative effect. With that in mind, try to eat more fruit and veg, along with whole grains and fish. Cut down on your caffeine intake too.

Top fact: eating a portion of walnuts every day has been found to increase the swimming speed of sperm! Go nuts for your nuts, boys!!

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Unprotected sex can lead to STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Symptoms can include rashes, lumps and itchiness around your genitals, as well as pain when urinating. The trouble is, many people experience few, if any, symptoms, so it is worth getting checked out. If left untreated, STIs can lead to infertility, but a course of antibiotics will usually do the trick when caught early enough. 

Keep cool

Mother Nature has designed the male body to keep sperm cool by storing them outside your body in the testicles. Ideally, sperm should be just below body temperature, so avoid hot baths or sitting still for hours on end. Wear boxer shorts and loose trousers, and don’t keep your phone in your front pocket

Chill out

It is well documented that high levels of stress can have a detrimental effect on your health, including your fertility. Conceiving a baby can also add to your stress levels, so make sure you take time to relax with your partner – have fun, go on date nights, perhaps even find some unusual places to do the deed! Try not to put yourselves under too much pressure to make a baby. 

  Watch this space for more info on baby-making! 

How long will it take?

Successfully conceiving a baby can take a few months. Still, if you have had no success for six months or more, it’s probably time to go and see your GP for some professional medical advice.

Fertility treatments

Not everyone can conceive naturally, but don’t worry — there is a range of fertility treatments available. Here is a quick guide:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is an artificial insemination technique commonly used by people using donated sperm.
  • In vitro fertilisation (IVF) isused for a wide range of fertility issues. IVF is available with or without medication. Options include natural IVF, mild stimulation IVF and in vitro maturation (IVM) – suitable for those unable to use fertility drugs due to medical reasons.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is the most common and successful treatment for male infertility.
  • Fertility drugs: those with polycystic ovary syndrome or hormone imbalances can have non-invasive fertility drug treatment.
  • Surgical sperm extraction: men with a low sperm count can have sperm collected surgically for use in other procedures.
  • Surgery: some fertility issues are treatable with surgery, such as blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, fibroids and vasectomy reversal.
  • Surrogacy: ideal for couples who find it difficult or impossible to have natural pregnancies and have failed fertility treatments

Legal note: Advertising to be a surrogate or looking for a surrogate is illegal in the UK. Seek professional help to meet potential mothers and to draw legally protected agreements.

What is post-partum depression?

Research has shown that around one in seven mums experiences some form of post-partum depression. Although it commonly emerges in the first few weeks after the birth, this form of depression can occur at any point during your baby’s first year.  

Common symptoms are feelings of sadness, hopelessness or even guilt. Both new and experienced parents can struggle with the emotional needs of caring for their baby. As a Dad, keep an eye out for signs of mood swings, lack of caretaking and bonding, and general sadness. You should both be over the moon, but this isn’t always the case.   

In rare cases, depression can develop into post-partum psychosis, a more serious mental illness type. If you have concerns, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

What causes the depression?

Hormone levels peak at the time of birth and then dramatically drop when your baby is born. This sudden change can spark changes in mood, particularly in those with a history of depression. Other contributing factors can be external stresses, such as struggling to care for your baby, financial problems and issues with drugs or alcohol.

How can I help my partner?

If you are concerned about your partner, talk to her. Try to find out how she’s feeling and ask her if she’s aware of some of the things you’re noticing. She might agree with you and accept that some support is required. She may be unaware and state that nothing is wrong. You can contact your local GP for help. If post-partum depression is diagnosed, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants to help balance the chemicals in the brain.   

Your partner can also receive counselling, which can help them understand and recognise their negative feelings and deal with them.   You can also support your partner by arranging daily outdoor exercise, periods of relaxation such as spa or pampering days and attending parenting groups where you can both share experiences.   

If you are worried about your partner, the sooner you contact your local GP, the better.

  More to come on this very important topic! If you have experience of post-natal depression, get in touch. We’d love to hear your story, and the more we talk about it, the more Dads will understand what’s going on for Mum and even themselves.