Dads Who See Themselves on Pregnancy Pamphlets Are More Likely to Be Involved, Study Says
May 31, 2019
Every couple has their own unique way of approaching partnership through prenatal care, but researchers from Rutgers University wanted to investigate how they could get expectant dads even more involved in the process. Their study found that the solution is making pregnancy less about women and more about men—which is certainly ironic and aggravating, given the current war on women's reproductive rights. But apparently, when waiting rooms feature more pamphlets and photos aimed at men, dads-to-be can "better visualize and feel confident in their role in prenatal care," the researchers said.
For the study, the Rutgers researchers created two different simulated prenatal care waiting rooms. One was outfitted with “only pictures of women and infants as décor, and information and magazines aimed toward women, while the other had those plus "pictures of men and infants, and information and magazines aimed toward men.” The men in the study went to one of these waiting rooms with their pregnant partner or watched online videos of the waiting rooms, and in the former, they were told to "imagine themselves waiting for an appointment at the office of an obstetrician-gynecologist."
The men who went to the office with more dad-related accoutrement said they had a stronger belief that the doctors had a high expectation of fathers' involvement in prenatal care, than did the men who visited the strictly mother-oriented office. The researchers concluded that when men felt like their doctors put more weight in a father's role, they had "greater comfort in the doctor’s office, more confidence in their ability to be a good parent, and greater reported intentions to learn about pregnancy and engage in healthy behaviors along with their partner,” according to the study.
The impetus for the study, according to Analia Albuja, lead researcher and a graduate student of social psychology at Rutgers: "Research suggests that father involvement during pregnancy causes psychological and physical health benefits for mothers and children, yet fathers often don't get involved during that crucial period. Current norms in society hold men to lower expectations to be involved, and many men say they are not sure what their role should be during this time, leading to often low involvement."
Ultimately, the researchers want to figure out what works to "increase men's comfort and perceived expectations of involvement during pregnancy," according to Diana Sanchez, co-author and professor of psychology at Rutgers-New Brunswick's School of Arts and Sciences. She noted that a "simple," "low cost" intervention like having more dad-friendly info and photography displayed could have a big impact, specifically "healthier outcomes for women and infants, such as lower alcohol and tobacco use among mothers, and a lower likelihood of low birth weight infants."
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Sounds like a win-win for everyone involved—not to mention a no-brainer way for health care providers to emphasize that parenthood and partnership should go hand-in-hand.