Should Obstetrics Offices Do More to Target Dads?

A study says more father-friendly cues are needed in OB offices to help improve prenatal care and long-term outcomes for mom and baby.

Young dad with glasses holding baby

Think of all the hours you’ve spent at the OB-GYN’s office for annual visits, pregnancy check-ups and the like. Did you ever see marketing materials geared toward dads?

If your answer is no, that isn’t surprising. It is primarily an office for women, after all. But new research tells us that OB-GYN offices are making a mistake if they don’t do more to incorporate men.

Big impact of ‘subtle cues’

From the maternity photos showing graceful pregnant women to the portraits on the wall of beautiful babies in mom’s arms, it’s typically all marketing toward you – when it should be trying to reach dads.

The new study led by Rutgers researchers found that adding “subtle cues” to prenatal care waiting rooms – like photos of dads with their babies, and pamphlets aimed at men – can prompt fathers to be more involved in prenatal care, Science Daily reports.

And that involvement matters, experts say, since it leads to healthier outcomes for women and infants.

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The study looked at whether dad-friendly cues like pictures, brochures and magazines had any effect on men’s involvement in their partner’s prenatal care. In OB-GYN offices that had a “balance of father- and mother-focused images,” men were better able to visualize and feel confident about their role in the prenatal care.

Analia Albuja, a lead researcher and a graduate student of social psychology at Rutgers, says in the report that it was an important topic to study, since father involvement during pregnancy is proven to have mental and physical benefits for mother and baby – “yet fathers often don’t get involved during that crucial period,” she says.

“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,” she adds.

Raising the bar

Doctors’ expectations mattered, too, with men who “believed doctors had higher expectations” for them reported they’d be more willing to learn about pregnancy and engage in healthy habits like avoiding smoking and alcohol during their partner’s pregnancy.

Increasing men’s comfort and expectations of prenatal involvement “may be a simple intervention” with low costs, study co-author and Rutgers psychology professor Diana Sanchez says in the report.

“If this intervention increases men’s involvement in prenatal care, previous research suggests this should bring about healthier outcomes for women and infants, such as lower alcohol and tobacco use among mothers, and a lower likelihood of low birth weight infants,” she says.

For many women, dad’s involvement in prenatal care is unclear. While they may attend birthing or parenting classes, even tagging along to prenatal visits at the OB-GYN’s office is a rare occurrence.

Curious which appointments are most important for dad to attend? Here’s what Parenting.com has to say on the topic (hint: it’s not just one or two appointments!).

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