We at the What To Expect Project are very proud to announce the unanimous bipartisan passage of S.Res.256, and the introduction of H.Res.522, both resolutions recognizing the role of father engagement in improving overall health outcomes during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, for both the mother and baby. We worked closely with Senators Rafael Warnock and Eric Schmitt and Representatives Mark Veasey and Colin Allred to provide support to address and recognize these important resolutions and are grateful for their tireless work towards improving father involvement and maternal and infant health.
This resolution recognizes the important role fathers can play in improving maternal health care, addressing maternal mortality and morbidity in the U.S., acknowledges that father engagement efforts provide continuous physical and emotional support which can contribute to healthier pregnancies, safer delivers, and successful postpartum recovers, and acknowledges that sustained engagements by a father throughout the life of their child is a privileged responsibility that fulfills the father as much as the child.
Research has found that supporting families holistically and actively by including and engaging fathers in all aspects of maternal health care, from preconception, through pregnancy, and during postpartum, can positively impact short-term and long-term health outcomes. With increased engagement, mothers are:
– more likely to receive early and regular prenatal care
– at a reduced risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)
– less likely to smoke, drink or misuse drugs during the pregnancy and perinatal period
– more likely to eat well and take recommended vitamins
– more likely to follow the recommendations of a physician
– less likely to experience complications during pregnancy and labor
– more likely to have a healthy, safe birth, and more likely to sustain breastfeeding
– less likely to have a preterm birth
– more likely to give birth to a baby at a healthier birth weight.
The participation of the father during prenatal care appointments can provide the mother with additional support to recognize potential pregnancy-related complications that could lead to maternal morbidity and mortality (ex: preeclampsia, preterm labor, PMADs, pregnancy loss or miscarriage, stillbirth, high blood pressure, cervical infections, gestational diabetes, placental abruption, ectopic pregnancy, uterine rupture).
1 in 5 women experiences a PMAD, added support from fathers reduces the risks of PMADs and has been linked with a 36% reduction in smoking in a mother. Evidence also shows that when fathers are involved during pregnancy appointments and milestones, mothers are 1.5 times more likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester, which improves health outcomes for both the mother and baby.
Additionally, 1 in 10 fathers experience postpartum depression or anxiety. Increasing physical contact between the father and baby just after birth and in the months following has been shown to improve the mental health of the father. These resolutions also have methods to empower fathers as advocates for both mother and baby including addressing cultural beliefs about fatherhood and the role of men in maternal health and families, peer-to-peer encouragement and support, involving fathers in maternal care, providing fathers with information about what to expect before, during, and after birth, how a father can better understand and support their partner, educating and engaging fathers in conversations and guidance about mental health, breastfeeding, health care appointments, safe sleep, physical touch, and more.
By offering moderated father support groups and classes, changing messaging about societal perceptions on the role of the father in pregnancy and parenting, and health care providers offering prenatal appointments outside of regular work hours (telehealth and take-home father-focused resources) we can help remove barriers to father engagement.
In Heidi’s words: “Science backs it up. Research backs it up. Fathers are biologically hardwired to be nurturers. Their involvement matters — and not only to the wellbeing of their children as they grow, but to the health of their partners and babies during pregnancy and postpartum. A father’s engagement during pregnancy and beyond reduces a mother’s risk of life-threatening complications and maternal mortality and morbidity, preterm labor, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. It boosts their baby’s birthweight and significantly increases breastfeeding success. Dads are, in fact, the best and most effective champions and advocates for their partners. But only if we include them. And too often, dads, especially Black and Brown dads, are not included by our healthcare system. This Father’s Day, the What to Expect Project and I are so grateful to Senator Rafael Warnock, Senator Eric Schmitt, Representative Mark Veasey and Representative Colin Allred for their passionate leadership and commitment to moms, dads and the little ones they love. Wishing them and all dads a happy and nurtured Father’s Day.”
See Representative Allred’s press release here and Representative Veasey’s press release here.