"It's common not to feel a strong bond with the unborn baby straight away." – An interview with midwife Carolina Gäbel
Do you have any advice to help both parents feel involved in the pregnancy?
"I think the most important thing is for both parents to feel a positive connection with the unborn baby. It's crucial for both partners to talk about their feelings to help make the pregnancy a shared experience. Because the pregnant partner is carrying the child and going through all the physical changes, the pregnancy may seem less tangible to the other partner and therefore harder to grasp. Most expecting parents naturally develop a bond with the baby, but it can take some time to fully grasp the fact that a little baby is growing inside. It often seems very abstract until the partner sees or feels signs of the pregnancy. The longer the pregnancy progresses, the more concrete evidence there is of the growing baby. For many, an important milestone is going to the ultrasound scan and seeing their baby move inside the womb. As the baby's movements develop and the bump grows bigger, the non-pregnant partner can see, feel and relate to something tangible.
We aim to continuously develop tools for making both parents feel involved in the pregnancy. Based on our Pregnancy Book, we have developed a great app that covers everything from a positive pregnancy test to the first stages of infancy. It's packed with text, pictures, audio and fabulous videos. You can search, scroll and personalise the app by bookmarking things you want to return to later. The facts have been carefully checked and the content is continuously updated.
The BabyBuzz pregnancy bracelet is Libero's latest new tool. Both parents wear a BabyBuzz bracelet during the pregnancy. When the baby kicks or makes some other movement, the mother presses a button on her bracelet which triggers a buzz on her partner's bracelet. It is a simple and intimate way for parents to share the pregnancy experience.
How can a couple lay the foundations for an optimal relationship prior to the pregnancy?
"Every pregnancy is unique, and everyone starts the journey with their own unique feelings and perspectives. But two crucial criteria are that the parents must on an equal footing and that the pregnancy is welcome and wanted. Talk to each other and explain your specific needs. This can bring you closer and prevent unnecessary arguments and misunderstandings. Before the child is born, it can be useful to discuss the topic of parental leave and how much leave each partner wants to take."
How does pregnancy affect the couple's relationship?
"This is a time of radical changes that brings up a lot of thoughts and feelings in the expecting parents, which are often positive but sometimes negative. They are preparing for something unknown and out of their control. Their family of two is about to multiply into three (or maybe more). There will inevitably be changes, and the couple may feel more vulnerable in their relationship. This may bring the couple closer together, but can also cause them to drift apart at times.
Do you sometimes meet expecting parents who are worried because they feel no emotional bond with the baby?
"Yes. It's common not to feel a strong bond with the unborn baby straight away. It's a process that takes time and can't be rushed. Everyone is different. The psychological journey into parenthood is usually different for the pregnant and the non-pregnant partner, and this is completely natural."
What advice do you give to expecting parents who are worried?
"You can't generalise. Every parent is unique and comes to pregnancy with different life experiences. This affects how and when they start bonding with the unborn baby. It's important to understand that it's natural for people to react in different ways. One piece of advice is to share your feelings with your partner to help you understand each other better."
Do you have any specific advice for adoptive parents regarding the emotional bonding process?
"Some adoptive children have not had the same opportunities to develop a secure bond with a dependable person with whom they feel safe, protected and loved. This can manifest in different situations, for instance at bedtime or when the child is in pain and needs comforting. The child might either refuse contact or become overly clingy, and these behaviours can be challenging for the new parent to deal with. If this happens, is important for the parent to show that they are always nearby and available, especially during their initial period together. It's also important not to leave the child in the care of other people too early. Instead, the parents should develop a number of solid relationships in the child's presence, for instance with grandparents, relatives and close friends. Your aim should be to help the child develop a sense of security at the rate that is most beneficial and manageable for the child. Initially, it's enough for the child to spend time with immediate family members such as parents and siblings. Then you can gradually increase the network of people in the child's life to create trust and security."
"It can be useful to discuss your feelings with the midwife if you feel you need support. Many people find enormous relief just from talking about their worries, anxieties or fears."
Can talking to a midwife help parents develop a bond with their unborn baby?
"It can be useful to discuss your feelings with the midwife if you feel you need support. Many people find enormous relief just from talking about their worries, anxieties or fears. Some people only want to talk to their partner, while others find comfort in talking to friends, colleagues or other people they can confide in."
As a midwife, what do you do to make both parents feel included?
"If there are two expecting parents, they're obviously both welcome to come to all the visits and examinations. Expecting parents can also attend prenatal classes where they learn a lot about pregnancy, childbirth and new parenthood and can get to know other parents. Sometimes special groups and meetings are organised for expecting dads, parents of twins and LGBT parents."
How do you get the parents to take an active part in the meetings?
"In the prenatal classes, the lectures are alternated with discussions and questions. This creates a more informal group dynamic than lectures alone."
Does the midwife offer any type of support specifically for the non-pregnant parent?
"If he or she feels worried or needs extra support, there is always the option of speaking to a psychologist during the pregnancy."
Is there any information about emotional bonding that you believe would be of help to expecting parents?
"Pregnancy is a time of radical psychological and physical changes, and many feelings can come up. These feelings may alternate between deep joy, anticipation, worry and anxiety, and they serve an important purpose in helping us become better parents. It's useful to share your thoughts and feelings about becoming parents. This will bring you closer together and help you prepare for everything that lies in store when you welcome your new family member into the world.