Your partner might not go through the physical changes of pregnancy, but bringing them along on the journey of gestation can bring you closer and forge a new intimacy to prepare you to transform from couple to family.

From the second you see your positive pregnancy test, your relationship has a brand new element to it – a baby, a new future and a whole lot of unknowns. No matter what the world throws at you while you’re pregnant, here are five simple ways to connect with your partner during the 40 weeks of pregnancy.

Connect with your partner tip #1: Start with the joy, but make time to listen

Pregnancy and parenthood is a mighty life transition that has a very real impact on a woman’s body, mind and soul. It’s likely to have just as much impact on your partner, even though they don’t feel any nausea, racing hormones or tiredness.

The first step of the journey together is to connect with joy and love, without shying away from challenging things like communicating your needs or asking for help. Most pregnant women are overwhelmed with weird new physical sensations and it doesn’t help that your partner has no idea what any of this feels like. By all means talk about yourself, but don’t hog all the airtime talking about physical pregnancy sensations that your partner can’t experience. Instead, put your partner’s hand on your belly, and take the time to:

  • Regularly ask questions, particularly about how your partner is feeling and what worries them.
  • Check in with your partner at the end of each day, maybe asking them the best and worst part of their day or what they were grateful for today.
  • Find a healthy balance between talking and listening – and don’t spend all your time talking about pregnancy (even if that’s what’s on your mind!).
  • Learn how to actively listen to your partner, not just by nodding along as they talk but ask deeper questions like ‘how did that make you feel’ or ‘is there anything I can do to help’ or even ‘what excites you most about the next three months … the next six months and the next 12 months …’.

Connect with your partner tip #2: Pregnancy is more than incubating a baby – it’s practicing how to ask for what you need

The medical definition of pregnancy is carrying a fetus or embryo within the female body, but the pregnancy experience is much bigger than that. It includes exciting things like planning baby names and gender reveals through to drearier tasks like balancing finances to pay for increased expenses like new cots and child seats. Learn how to involve your partner in the journey that goes beyond the physical growth of a baby – talk to them about your hopes for your child just as much as your fears or worries.

Connect with your partner tip #3: Share the energy, share your love

Starting the good, healthy habits that you want your family to have in the future begins during pregnancy.

There’s one big thing that pregnancy brings to nearly all couples: tiredness. Successfully mastering the art of communicating your needs around sleep and rest can make all the difference between a happy gestational journey and a good start to new parenthood. After all, once there’s a newborn baby in the house, the fight for sleep and rest is likely to continue. Why not try:

  • Going to bed together at the same time to encourage you both to rest up and practice good sleep hygiene – some women encounter insomnia or vivid dreams during pregnancy, so it’s worth learning how to sleep well while you can.
  • Go for a walk together in the evening or early morning to get in some exercise while also opening up the opportunity to talk.
  • Cook healthy dinners together – preparing food together can be almost as much fun as eating great food.
  • Show your partner how they can make you a daily glass of MamaCare to ensure you get 26 nutrients essential for a healthy pregnancy, including Folic Acid, Iron and Iodine. Just add two scoops of MamaCare to 200ml of water and shake, shake, shake. (It’s also refreshing over ice on a hot day.)
  • Take the 5 Love Languages quiz to understand each of your communication preferences.

Connect with your partner tip #4: Learn about what happens during pregnancy, together

Throwing a pregnancy book at your partner, signing them up to week-by-week pregnancy emails or demanding they download an app is not the best way to inspire the non-pregnant partner to understand the full extent of the change pregnancy brings. While pregnant women like to know every detail, from the size of the embryo through to what the linea nigra really is, your partner may not be as interested as you are – and that’s OK!

Your partner may prefer to engage in more hands-on experiences of pregnancy, like going to your medical appointments together (and allowing them to ask questions, too) or starting prenatal classes to understand birth. Some partners actually like talking to a baby bump and of course feeling or seeing a baby kick from the second trimester onwards is also a thrill.

One of the best bonding moments is that all-important first ultrasound. There’s nothing quite like seeing your unborn child on an ultrasound, with a heartbeat coming over the sound system to make the pregnancy real for both you and your partner (even if your baby does look like a Jack O’Lantern rather than a real child on that ultrasound).

Helping your partner understand the type of birth you want and explaining how they can help you is also a beautiful way to connect. You might want more from your partner than driving you to the birth centre and holding your hand during labour, so make it clear in advance of the big birth-day. If massages, birthing playlists and essential oils are on your birth plan, then you need to have your partner prepped in advance so they can help make your wishes real.

Connect with your partner tip #5: Be emotionally present for each other – it’s great practice for being parents

It won’t hurt your partner to hear all the things you really value about them. From thanking them for cleaning up the kitchen to telling them how much you appreciate the hard work they do in an office, make sure you notice the effort your partner makes to contribute towards your future family. It’s an excellent habit to get into, considering how much you might want your partner to let you go to bed early or beg off the housework in the months to come.

During pregnancy, it’s likely your priorities will shift, habits change, and your heart – as well as your belly – will grow bigger than you thought possible. The key during these nine months is to prepare for it together.