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Encouraging Fathers to Get Involved in Pregnancy

Study suggests that men are more enthusiastic about playing an active role in their partner's pregnancy when OBGYN offices are more father-friendy.

October 18, 2019

While pregnancy doesn’t necessarily require a partner, many women do become pregnant with the expectation that their significant other will help them through the challenging nine months ahead of them. But because pregnancy takes place in one body not two, understanding how it feels can be difficult for a partner—especially if that partner is male. 

Fathers-to-be might find themselves feeling removed from their partner’s pregnancy and thus might not get as involved as they should. A group of researchers from Rutgers University decided to test whether they could change expecting fathers’ perspectives on their role in the pregnancy process. 

Keep reading for more information regarding:

  • The study, including its background and method
  • What the researchers found, and why it’s significant 

The Study: “The effect of paternal cues in prenatal care settings on men’s involvement intentions”

Background

Prenatal father involvement, which the researchers define as when “expectant fathers engage in behaviors that support the likelihood of positive pregnancy outcomes,” can be beneficial for both the mother and child and also serves as an indication of how likely the father is to be involved in the child’s life as they grow up. 

However, the researchers note that there are several barriers to an expectant father’s involvement in his partner’s pregnancy, including: 

  • Socioeconomic factors: Unemployment and low income, for instance, might result in less involvement.
  • Interpersonal factors: If an expectant father does not have a good relationship with the mother, he might be less involved in her pregnancy. 
  • And motivational factors: Men who adhere to strict gender roles or feel no obligation to the mother might not feel the necessary motivation to get involved in the pregnancy. 

The researchers felt that the social climate surrounding pregnancy, as well as the major settings in which it takes place, could also have an effect on how men view their role in the prenatal process.

Partners fight about pregnancy
Pregnancy might challenge your relationship, but hopefully, you and your partner will be able to grow from the experience and make your bond even stronger. 

Method

Pregnancy involves frequent visits to prenatal care offices, in which many men feel uncomfortable, out of place, or even unwelcome. With this in mind, the researchers created two simulated waiting rooms. 

Pregnant woman at OBGYN office
Some men might feel intimidated by the prospect of entering a prenatal care office, such as an OBGYN. The researchers believed that the female-oriented atmosphere of these offices might be making men feel as though there are lower expectations for them than their female partners when it comes to parenting. Image courtesy of New Beginnings OBGYN

One waiting room had magazines, brochures, pamphlets, and posters with an exclusively female-intended audience (i.e., the literature contained articles directed at women only and the signage depicted and addressed women only). The second waiting room had these same materials, as well as additional decor featuring men and infants and publications for and about fathers. The men who participated in the study went to one of the two waiting rooms with their pregnant partners . 

The Results and Their Significance

The men who visited the “father-friendly” office reportedly felt as though there were high expectations that they would be involved in their partner’s pregnancy, while the men who visited the other office did not report having felt the same kind of expectations. 

According to ScienceDaily, “The men who believed doctors had higher expectations also reported that they would be more willing to learn about pregnancy and engage in healthy habits, such as avoiding smoking and alcohol during their partner's pregnancy. They also felt more comfortable and confident about their ability to be fathers.” 

The researchers believe that increasing men’s comfort in prenatal care offices could be a major step toward changing the way men perceive how much is expected of them when it comes to getting involved in their partner’s pregnancy.

OBGYN appointment with husband and wife
If your partner feels as though his presence isn’t required during prenatal visits, he might opt not to go, or he might assume he isn’t a valued part of the pregnancy process. Image courtesy of Jenkins Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Medicine

So, What Can You Do? 

Communication is a necessity for partners expecting a baby together. Not only can voicing concerns during pregnancy help make the prenatal process more manageable, but it can also better equip couples for how to navigate their relationship once they become parents. 

If you feel as though your partner is not as involved in your pregnancy as they should be, the first step in the right direction is talking to them about how you’re feeling and describing to them what they can do to remedy the situation. Maybe they feel as though your OBGYN doesn’t include them enough during prenatal visits, or they feel uncomfortable going to the office for the appointments. If this is the case, talk to them—and perhaps your OBGYN—about what you can do to make them feel more involved or more comfortable. 

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