As we approach Father’s Day, we cannot forget the fact that they go through this pregnancy with you too. While they may not be able to feel your aches and pains, their involvement is crucial to mother’s self-esteem and reducing the infant mortality rate.
A new study by University of South Florida researchers suggests that a father’s involvement before his child is born may play an important role in preventing death during the first year of life – particularly if the infant is black.
The USF team sought to evaluate whether the absence of fathers during pregnancy contributes to racial and ethnic disparities in infant survival and health. Their findings were recently reported online in the Journal of Community and Family Health.
Among the study’s findings:
- Infants with absent fathers were more likely to be born with lower birth weights, to be preterm and small for gestational age.
- Regardless of race or ethnicity, the neonatal death rate of father-absent infants was nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved fathers.
- The risk of poor birth outcomes was highest for infants born to black women whose babies’ fathers were absent during their pregnancies. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic differences, these babies were seven times more likely to die in infancy than babies born to Hispanic and white women in the same situation.
- Obstetric complications contributing to premature births, such as anemia, chronic high blood pressure, eclampsia and placental abruption, were more prevalent among women whose babies’ fathers were absent during pregnancy.
- Expectant mothers in the father-absent group tended to be younger, more educated, more likely to never have given birth, more likely to be black, and had a higher percentage of risk factors like smoking and inadequate prenatal care than mothers in the father-involved group
“Our study suggests that lack of paternal involvement during pregnancy is an important and potentially modifiable risk factor for infant mortality,” concluded the study’s lead author Amina Alio, PhD, research assistant professor of community and family health at the USF College of Public Health. “A significant proportion of infant deaths could be prevented if fathers were to become more involved.”
Dad’s role does not begin at birth, it begins at conception. Happy Father’s Day!