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Expectant Fathers and Prenatal Care

April 9, 2012
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Expectant moms are accustomed to receiving prenatal care and support while dads-to-be sit on the sidelines. But a study shows that dads should receive similar attention to improve the health of moms-to-be and their infants.

The research, published last May in Science Daily, was led by ManSoo Yu, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri's Public Health Program and the School of Social Work. The study, which featured 66 low-income Missouri couples, looked at how expectant parents are affected by stress and social support.

Yu employed the Prenatal Psychosocial Profile to learn about the stress, self-esteem, support system and emotions of the couples. The PPP results revealed that men handle pregnancy-related issues - which include preparing for the baby's arrival and feeling overwhelmed - differently than women. Men viewed them as financial stressors while women saw them as emotional stressors.

In the area of partner support, the study found that women provided their partners with more emotional support, while men gave women more tangible support, such as helping with tasks. Men and women offer the type of support that is most important to them, according to researchers.

The research also found that compared to men, women had higher self-esteem during pregnancy. Researchers said high self-esteem is important, especially for expectant parents, as lower self-confidence and self-worth can lead to substance use. The study noted that it's important to keep men's self-esteem high, as there is a link between substance abuse and emotional stress.

"Too often, men are treated as observers of the pregnancy process," Yu said in Science Daily. "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."

He added that resources should be offered to men to help them care for expectant moms, prepare for life after baby and better manage stress.

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