By Karolina Jurasik

Embarking on the journey of parenthood is undoubtedly a transformative experience, filled with joy, challenges, and a myriad of emotions.  While the end of pregnancy is often filled with excitement and anticipation, the arrival of the new baby is typically a time of significant adjustment. Sleep schedules change, postpartum adjustment occurs, and the relationship must find a new normal. With a new baby in the house, there is more of everything: more love and joy but also: more stuff, more visitors, more household tasks. For the relationship, there can be more disagreement, more frustration, and ultimately, more conflict. 

Research by the Gottman Institute shows that the transition to parenthood brings a  decrease in relationship satisfaction for both men and women, with 67% percent of couples reporting this unfortunate decline. When I share this result with expecting couples they are often both shocked and horrified. Then, the question arises: Is there anything that can be done to prepare for and ultimately prevent such a dramatic change? Research sheds light on the protective factors that can help ensure you are among 33% of happy couples whose well-being and relationship satisfaction remains unaffected.

Manage your expectations through education and knowledge. Be aware of the most common changes and prepare where you can. Studies, such as the one conducted by Keizer, Schenk, and Otten (2015), emphasise the positive impact of prenatal education. This doesn’t mean hours spent researching the best buggies or cots. While those choices are important, in the long run, spending more time reading about labour, fourth trimester and life with a newborn generally (how do they sleep, eat and play) will prove more beneficial. As such, participating in prenatal classes not only imparts valuable knowledge but also boosts self-confidence, equipping expectant parents with the tools they need to navigate the uncharted waters of parenthood. Remember, it’s a joint effort, so equal engagement from both parents in gaining this knowledge can help shift focus towards this new chapter of your life as well as create a sense of  teamwork. 

Communication and Teamwork: The Glue that Binds. That being said, teamwork and effective communication are pillars of strength during the transition to parenthood. Research by Lawrence et al. (2008) highlights how positive communication and cooperation significantly contribute to partner satisfaction and adjustment in the postpartum period. Nurturing these aspects of the relationship establishes a resilient foundation, fostering a sense of unity. There’s different things that you can do that can bring a more ‘’we-ness’’ vs ‘’me-ness’’ sense into your relationship. Here’s a practical idea you can start with. Make a list of tasks and house chores that you’re already performing, then add those involving baby care. Divide these tasks and check with each other to ensure fairness. Re-arrange until both of you feel satisfied. Open communication is a key here. When things no longer feel fair, review your agreement, instead of harbouring resentment. It’s also beneficial to routinely ask each other, ‘’Is there anything you need help or support with?’’ Lastly, while it’s never a good idea to be stingy with compliments in your relationship, it’s especially important to be generous when you both feel depleted. Praise each other’s efforts, as positive feedback goes a long way, especially when everything else feels overwhelming.

Learn to ask for help – you’ll need it. One cornerstone of navigating the transition to parenthood is the presence of strong social support.Studies, such as the work of Dunkel Schetter and Glynn (2011), underline the profound impact of support from partners, family, and friends. This pillar of strength has been associated with lower stress levels and improved mental health for new parents. Cultivating a network of understanding individuals provides a safety net during the sometimes turbulent early days of parenting. Think about your friends and family and reflect on how they could support you during this time. Can you ask them to shop or cook for you? Would you like a particular person to share their parenting experience with you? Or maybe you would like to design a ‘’roster’’ of who can visit and when to keep you company. It might also be useful to make new friends, perhaps other expecting couples or parents with young children, so you can share the experience at a similar time.

Relationship Satisfaction and Commitment: The Bedrock of Resilience. Research consistently underscores the significance of high relationship satisfaction and commitment in weathering the storms of parenthood. Kluwer’s study (2010) found that couples with elevated satisfaction levels before childbirth tended to maintain and even enhance their relationship satisfaction after becoming parents. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Investing in the emotional bank of the relationship before parenthood can yield enduring dividends during this transformative phase. If you’re reading this before your child is born – here’s an idea. Think of different activities and experiences that you’d like to share with your partner that might leave you feeling closer and more committed to one another. These might include re-watching your favourite movie, taking a non-baby-related class together or going on a babymoon (it’s a thing!). In addition to that, have some difficult conversations around what needs improvement in your relationship and invest your time and energy in addressing those. And if you’ve already welcomed your child in your relationship, you might struggle with finding time to do any of the time consuming things. In this case – think small and review how you interact with each other on a daily basis. Follow this link to a short video explaining how to start building up more emotional savings Invest in Your Relationship: The Emotional Bank Account | The Gottman Institute

Coping Skills and Flexibility: Adapting to the Winds of Change. In the unpredictable journey of parenting, effective coping skills and flexibility become invaluable assets. Research by Crnic et al. (1983) reveals that parental coping strategies and the ability to adapt to the demands of parenting are linked to positive child outcomes. Developing resilience and flexibility as a couple allows for a more adaptable approach to the myriad challenges that come with parenting. Reflect on how you cope with stress and develop strategies, starting with simple practices like breathing exercises, meditation (even 5, 10 minutes) or gentle workouts (like going out for a short walk or gentle stretches). Remember to communicate with your partner if you’re struggling – they might not notice when you’re both busy caring for your new baby. For many parents, it’s essential that each partner has some time for themselves daily or weekly, even if it’s just  30 minutes. Discuss how this can be achieved, ideally before the baby arrives. Lastly, talk about the potential supports if one of you struggles with adjustment , such as therapy, and plan how to organise this both, time- and money-wise.

Reigniting Intimacy with Understanding. A temporary decline in romantic and sexual intimacy after the arrival of a baby is common. It’s important to recognize that physical exhaustion, changes in body image, and the demands of parenting can impact intimacy. Approach this aspect of your relationship with understanding and patience – it’s a long game. Communicate openly about your needs, and work together to find creative ways to reignite the spark. It’s good to talk about what to expect before the baby arrives, ensuring you’re on the same page. Don’t take refusals personally, and regularly check in with each other about when it might be a good time to return to sexual activity or what might need to happen for it to become a possibility.

It’s no secret that welcoming a newborn into your life is a significant challenge, much like setting sail on an uncharted sea. While the waters may be rough and the demands many, with the right preparation and mindset, this journey can be a rewarding adventure. Embrace the power of teamwork and open communication to navigate through the stormy weather. Lean on your support network, and don’t forget to nurture your relationship with love and patience, keeping the spark alive even during the busiest times. By blending flexibility with resilience and sprinkling in a dose of understanding, you’ll not only navigate these early days but also create a journey filled with growth, joy, and unbreakable bonds. Here’s to thriving together amidst the beautiful chaos of parenthood!

If you’d like to read more about how nature prepares us to become parents, please check out the blog post by Karolina Jurasik: “The Transformative Journey of Parenthood: A Neuroscientific Perspective. Another article about creating secure attachment in children by Hana Kone might also be of interest: “Cultivating Secure Attachment: A Guide to Nurturing Healthy Parent-Child Relationships.

If you feel that it might be useful to reach out and get some help in preparation for welcoming your child into your family, don’t hesitate to contact us at