march 2022

Birth partners – all you need to know about pregnancy hormones and how to support your pregnant partner

15 min read Emma Ashworth Recommended Products
Birth partners – all you need to know about pregnancy hormones and how to support your pregnant partner

jump to section

If there is one thing we know about pregnancy, is that pregnant women can become somewhat emotional, right? Those pesky pregnancy hormones can really make pregnancy hard going for her – and also, for you, as her partner!

But dig deeper and you’ll find that those hormones are actually performing vital functions to grow your baby and keep your partner’s pregnancy working well. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re doing.


The hormone oestrogen is one that every woman has in her body, but she will create more during just one pregnancy than she will throughout the rest of her life. Oestrogen is vital for many functions in pregnancy from developing blood vessels, which improve blood flow around your partner’s body, to maturing your baby’s organs. This increase in blood flow can cause aching breasts. It’s also thought to be one cause of so-called morning sickness, which can, of course, happen at any time of day or night.

While these changes are necessary for the pregnancy, the symptoms can be anything on a scale from annoying to life-changing, so it’s not surprising that your pregnant partner may be feeling upset, grumpy or irritable.

And, if the above wasn’t enough, oestrogen pulls another punch! It can upset the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin. So, not only is she contending with a whole load of physical symptoms, her body may literally be making her to feel less happy, all at the same time.


Progesterone is the second of several vital pregnancy hormones, the levels of which, like oestrogen, soar higher than they ever will at any other time in your partner’s life. Progesterone can cause constipation, which can be painful and add to the feelings of nausea. It develops milk making tissue in the breast which can also make them feel sore and swollen. Progesterone can make a person feel absolutely exhausted. And I don’t just mean a bit tired. I mean “I simply can’t put one foot in front of the other” tired.

As well as these delightful effects, progesterone can cause symptoms such as belching, heartburn, flatulence and even an increase in body hair. All of which is enough to make anyone irritable!


HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is the hormone which pregnancy tests look for as it’s excreted in urine. HCG is also thought to contribute to pregnancy sickness, as though one hormone doing this wasn’t enough!

Your partner's hormones, and you!

While it may be true that “it’s your hormones”, it is clear that these hormones may cause really distressing physical symptoms which can in themselves cause anxiety and irritation. Imagine just walking down the street and suddenly being sick, or trying to work in the office, not wanting to tell people you are pregnant but having to rush to the loo several times a day. Imagine feeling absolutely exhausted all the time, like you have the worst jet lag, but it doesn’t go away from months on end. Add in breast pain and gastric problems and it is no wonder pregnant people can be irritable!

It can put a huge amount of pressure on a relationship when someone feels this rough for so long, and it is quite understandable if you find it hard going. It’s ok to feel irritable and frustrated yourself, even though it’s not your body going through these changes! However, at the same time, it’s really important to continue to support your pregnant partner, so what can you do?

Caring for yourself so you can care for her

Although you’re not experiencing the physical and emotional changes of pregnancy yourself, you will be facing the struggles of living with them, and that can take a toll.

If you feel frustrated or irritated, perhaps you can find someone else to talk to and let out your pent-up emotions! For everything else, talk to each other. Sometimes sharing how you are feeling can make you both feel better and discussing what you can both do to help each other can be really positive.

Do remember that these hormonal changes are very real and they are not something she can just get over. So, do try to put yourself in her shoes and think how you would feel if you had all those symptoms. Try to do as much as possible to support her. You may need to take over all the cooking and other chores and ensure she’s got the time to rest.

This can be hard going for you and it is ok to acknowledge that. Make sure you make time to care for you, too! It’s really important that you focus on your own needs as well as your partner’s so that you have the energy to do whatever is needed and that you can both enjoy your pregnancy together.


Pregnancy hormones do not just make your pregnant partner feel irritable or weepy, they can often cause physical symptoms which would make anyone feel frustrated and upset. Talk to each other and support each other but do try to do everything you can to make life easier for her, and take the time for your own self-care, too.