Pregnancy is a unique and significant experience for both a woman and her partner. In the following pages, we look at the experience and the effect it has on the individuals and the couple. Many of the experiences are encountered by heterosexual and lesbian couples alike. In this section the heterosexual couple is used as a frame of reference.

The Woman’s Experience

Each woman has different emotional and physical reactions to pregnancy, and the same woman may react differently to different pregnancies. Here are two reactions at the opposite ends of the continuum:

I loved being pregnant. My face glowed for nine months. I felt like a kindred spirit to all female mammals and discovered a new respect for my body and its ability to create life. The bigger I got, the better I liked it. (Authors’ files)

If I could have babies without the pregnancy part, I’d do it. Looking fat and slowed down is a huge drag. (authors’ files)

Factors influencing a woman’s emotional reactions can include how the decision for pregnancy was made, current and impending lifestyle changes, her relationship with others, her financial resources, her self-image, and hormonal changes. The woman’s acquired attitudes and knowledge about childbearing and her hopes and fears about parenthood also contribute to her experience. Positive support and attention from her partner are helpful in creating a happy pregnancy.

Women sometimes feel that they should experience only positive emotions when they are pregnant. However, pregnancy often elicits an array of contradictory emotions. One study of 1,000 women found a wide range of feelings about pregnancy: 35% loved being pregnant, 40% had mixed feelings about it, 8% hated it, and the remainder had different experiences with each of their pregnancies. The researchers concluded that the degree of physical discomfort a woman experiences during the 9 months of pregnancy greatly influences her feelings about being pregnant (Genevie & Margolies, 1987). For some women pregnancy is a very difficult period; about 12% of women experience sig­nificant depression during pregnancy (Stewart, 2011).