Researcher Recommends Prenatal Care for Men As Well As Women

A new study claims that prenatal care should be available to men as well as women, due to the unique stress pregnancy has on a father-to-be’s health.University of Missouri researchers argue that without special care services for men, a chain effect is likely to occur in which the man’s health is affected, which in turn influences the health of the expectant mother and infant.

Health services should incorporate counseling and assessments for men and women to reduce stressors and promote positive pregnancy outcomes, said ManSoo Yu, assistant professor in MU’s Public Health Program.

Doctors and researchers have long known that mental distress in pregnant women, caused by anxiety, lack of social support or poor self esteem, is associated with poor infant health.  Because men play an important role in supporting and caring for pregnant women, it is important to focus on their mental health as well.

“Too often, men are treated as observers of the pregnancy process,” said Yu, assistant professor in the College of Human Environmental Sciences. “Acknowledging and addressing the emotional well-being of men as well as women is recommended. Providing prenatal care for expectant fathers can encourage men to have a proactive role in pregnancy, which will allow for better maternal and infant health outcomes.”

The researchers found that men and women perceive stressors and support in unique ways during pregnancy.  For example, men tend to be more strongly affected by financial stressors, while women are more focused on emotional stressors.  When they give each other support, men give out more tangible support, and women give more emotional support.

“Understanding these differences will help practitioners provide better advice and services for expectant parents,” Yu said. “For example, men could write budgets to alleviate financial stress and women can seek counseling to understand emotional stressors. Men and women can discuss and learn about potential stressors to become better partners and improve the health of each other and their infant.”

The study was published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.