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7 Minutes

Baby proofing your relationship from ttc, pregnancy to early years…

The journey from ttc, to pregnancy and the first days of a new baby can be challenging. Each step can be full of excitement but also full of anxiety, stress, lack of sleep. All of which can provide a source of inevitable tension. Often the place this comes out, is your relationship. No matter how good it is. Being proactive with your partner and your relationship is a great first step. So, we speak to female mental health expert, psychotherapist, author and CEO of The Recover Clinic Emmy Brunner about her top tips, tools and things to think about for protecting and promoting your relationship no matter what stage youre at. 

Many people struggle with infertility which can be a huge source of anxiety and can put stress on a relationship: what would be your advice for couples in this situation? 

Emmy: My number one bit of advice to anyone going through this (or any other challenging situation) is to be kind to one another. It sounds small and perhaps even obvious, but, actively trying to set your mindset in this direction is a highly effective tool for a relationship particularly during challenging times. It is also often forgotten and overlooked. It is rarely a mindset we proactively set. Especially during challenging periods when it’s often what we need the most. 

Trying to empathise and see things from your partner’s point of view as well as your own is equally powerful. Everyone is different. Communication is also key.

On that note…

It’s all about how we communicate our needs and feelings:

Often in times of high stress, the way we communicate can exacerbate a situation. In the heat of the moment, it can be very difficult to communicate effectively. So first and foremost, if you can, wait until you’re in a situation where you can speak calmly. This makes a huge difference. Otherwise if you are in a position of ‘attack’ when you’re trying to communicate wants/needs/feelings (which often comes with heightened emotions) then the other person will automatically go on the defence.

Defence mode typically means shutting down and focusing on self preservation rather than really hearing what the other person is trying to say. That is not a recipe for good communication. In fact that is a sure fire way to clash and to stop the other person hearing what you really want/need. The opposite of what we want to achieve! 

Talking about how you feel/what you need vs. focusing on the shortfalls of your partner: 

Another good tool is how you approach a conversation. It can be tempting (particularly where there are heightened emotions/frustrations) to lead with criticism of your partner. Instead, a good place to start in a discussion is to focus instead on how you are feeling at the present time. Then clearly and calmly explain your needs/what you’d like your partner to do. This, once again, stops the other person from immediately switching to the defence and increases the chances that you are actually ‘heard’. 

All about expectations: 

Having kindness and compassion also means not expecting too much from the other person. People are different with different perspectives. If you expect everything from your partner you can end up very frustrated and disappointed. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner or any person to fully understand how you feel all the time. 

It can also cause worsening communication issues and a vicious circle if you withdraw and shut down. Something that’s common if you’re feeling vulnerable and that your needs/wants are not being met. Coming back to kindness and compassion for your partner and appreciating that they are a different person with different perspectives and are unlikely to meet every need at all times is another effective mindset shift. Give them a chance to meet your needs. Communicating in a different way – with kindness and without hostility and attack – is a great start.

On that note:

What happens if you’re feeling you put more effort into the journey from ttc to parenthood than your partner is?

Feeling this way often makes us feel unsupported and is a quick way to build resentment and accumulate negative emotions within yourself. How you think and communicate these types of feelings once again remains key. Remember that we cannot control other people, even our partners. We can only control ourselves. Sharing your needs with your partner with the hope that they respond in the way that allows you to feel heard and supported is the best approach. Ultimately you cannot do more than that. After that, it’s about letting go and accepting that the only person that we can really control, is yourself. Accepting this will free you from feeling as much anger and resentment and is likely to improve communication.  

What’s coming up for you? 

Whenever we’re faced with big life changes, unprocessed trauma can be triggered and what we need in those moments is space to reflect and process what’s coming up for us. Sometimes just letting someone we trust know that we’re feeling vulnerable can be really healing.

Examining your own feelings towards a given situation is also a powerful way to strengthen your relationship. Ultimately, it’s not just about being kind and compassionate towards your partner, it is also about being kind and compassionate towards yourself.

When we manage our expectations of the relationships that we’re in and focus our attention on the relationship that we have with ourselves then real shifts become possible. 

Feeling vulnerable around the issue of infertility: 

When it comes to feelings around fertility, pregnancy, birth we are human beings, not robots. We cannot always predict how we are going to perform or respond physically. It’s humbling to acknowledge this and to be mindful that if your response is to feel shamed, guilty and critical of yourself then there is perhaps space for reflecting on nurturing a more kind and compassionate relationship with yourself. Often our worst enemy is the voice within our own heads. Approaching yourself the way you would a friend is another powerful tool for shifting how you feel in any given situation. 

Feeling vulnerable during pregnancy: from hormonal shifts to body changes: how to handle this shift: 

Communication and kindness. Letting your partner know how you’re feeling. Reminding yourself that this journey is so unique, that unless you’ve been through it, it’s almost impossible to fully understand what it’s like.

Once again, examining why certain feelings are coming up for you and simply sharing the fact you feel vulnerable can be a relief. 

The arrival of a new baby: a ‘catastrophic’ event for a couple?!  

Dealing with major sleep deprivation, changing identities, lifestyle shifts and clashes in parenting styles are common issues when a new baby comes along. This can be a huge dynamic shift and put stress on a couple no matter how joyful having a new baby is. 

In these moments what we need more than ever is space to be patient and kind with and to one another.

Once again, approaching your relationship with kindness and compassion and bearing in mind that your partner is human and may not fully appreciate what you’re going through (and vice versa) is a solid start. Practising calm communication of what you need and how you feel is especially important. 

Taking the pressure off/expectations:

Giving yourself permission to reassess how you both get your needs met in the relationship now that things have changed is important and can pre-empt potential problems. Recognising that it is an adjustment and that it may take time to find your feet. The good news is that longer term this adjustment could really strengthen your relationship and understanding of each other for the better. 

Shifting sex drives from ttc, to pregnancy and beyond… 

Many people find their attitudes to sex change during the process of having a baby. Whether it be ‘pressure’ and ‘lack of romance’ in sex for ttc, to changing hormones and body image issues pre and postnatal it is not uncommon. 

First of all, suspend judgement around how you’re feeling. Big life shifts inevitably cause changes in many areas of our lives, sex is no exception. Once again this comes down to being kind – towards yourself. 

Don’t be embarrassed by your emotions, they make you human! 

It can be very scary to bring this up with your partner, it can make anyone feel vulnerable. However, open communication once again is really powerful and will help them understand you better. Particularly if it is done calmly and sharing how you’re feeling without judgement. In fact, it is likely to foster better understanding and intimacy. 

Sex after a baby: 

Many women talk about feeling ‘pressure’ around sex after a baby. Your body may well feel very different which can create fear around the situation. However, just because it is different and you feel differently vs before doesn’t mean it is ‘bad’. Acceptance of this difference, rather than fear of it can be a great starting point. 

Allow yourself to rediscover yourself sexually. The good news is that the intimacy available to you at this life stage is so profound and can have the ability to allow you to access parts of yourself that you weren’t able to connect with pre-babies. Knowing that you are no longer just you, you are a partner, a mother and embracing these different facets of your character can open up a connection to your sexual self.

Instead of fear and pressure: be curious and get to know yourself again. 

More from Emmy: 

If you’re struggling with anxiety around ttc, pregnancy and early years (or anytime!) check out Emmy’s top tips for dealing with it here. 

We also have the podcast version here in case you want to listen on the go! 




This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.






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