Landmark Research Sheds Light on Dad’s Role in Baby’s Health

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash


Expectant mothers have plenty of research and resources available to understand how important it is to stay healthy while pregnant.

We know that pregnant women must avoid smoking, alcohol, and risky behaviors, as well as eating healthy and getting good prenatal care.

But a recent study is shedding light on just how crucial a father’s health is to that of his unborn baby.

The study was published in the Journal Fertility and Sterility earlier this month and was based on more than three-quarters of a million births.

Looking at data in the study, researchers found an overwhelming association between the health of a father and the health of the baby before and during pregnancy and after birth.

The research team, led by Dr. Alex Kasman, found that fathers with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression were much more likely to have a baby born preterm, at a lower birth weight, or needing additional care in the days and weeks following birth.

The increase in complications for the baby were, in some cases, more than 25 percent when fathers had health complications.

Researchers state that further study is needed in this area, and it could be landmark research to improve the health of children by offering guidance to both mothers and fathers on the impact of their health on their child.

While it is not known exactly how a father’s health – or health problems – increase a baby’s risk of complications, the research could pave the way to an overall family health plan before conception and during pregnancy.

One explanation is that fathers who are obese or have underlying health problems may be more likely to have a spouse or partner who exhibits similar habits when making health choices.

For example, if one parent smokes or has a poor diet, it is far more likely that both parents will.  The health of the baby is dependent on the overall health of both parents and that of their home environment.

Women with a spouse or partner in poor health were also more likely to have pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, perhaps because of shared poor health habits.

And because half of a baby’s genes come from their father, that component just adds to the fact that a father’s overall health should be studied further.

Similar studies have been conducted in the past that have shown that poor health in the father – smoking, drinking, poor diet, and environmental factors – can negatively affect the quality of the father’s sperm.

While research has shown that parents with health issues can still have a healthy baby, physicians and researchers want to drive home the point that both parents should take steps toward a healthy lifestyle when planning to have children.

Prenatal care for mothers has always been the focus of fostering healthy pregnancies, but researchers are hopeful that prenatal care will become more family-oriented – with both mom and dad receiving guidance, health testing, and counsel on what they can do to give their child the best chance at a healthy life.

And involving dad in the prenatal period is not just good for physical health.

When both parents are involved in prenatal appointments and screenings, are informed, and understand the necessity of overall health for the entire family, moms have more support and involvement from dads that extends well past pregnancy.

The family approach to the prenatal period is not just beneficial for the family’s physical health, but their emotional well-being.

It may seem obvious that dad’s health matters too, but this research is a new frontier that aims to prove just how important it is to having healthier babies.

And, of course, when both parents are healthy and active, they model those habits and behaviors to their child from an early age.

So, take care of yourselves, dads!  Your baby’s health may depend on it more than you know!