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Men’s attitudes make a big difference in pregnancy

September 26, 2011

Phillip White, Birth Navigators

Men who are becoming fathers have a huge influence on their mate’s psychological demeanor and disposition.  The stress of starting a family can make a big impact on everyone involved.  Men need to take seriously the repercussions of presenting negative or bad attitudes regarding their pregnant mate and all the changes that come with preparing for transitioning to a family.  A recent study showed that the amount of support a woman receives from their partner impacts her mental health, which can adversely affect her pregnancy and the postpartum recovery.

Statistically only 10 percent of women in the U.S. suffer postnatal depression each year, but that adds up to be nearly half a million women.  This is no little problem.  Men who usually don’t think they have much of an impact on pregnancy, childbirth and the health of the mother and child, but they do, and the mother’s health will subsequently effect even them.  Yes, the study goes to show that a man’s behavior will affect the developing family in very real and palpable ways.

The bigger problem I see is getting the men to pay attention to this issue at all.  Callous, cruel and angry men, as well as drug abusers, alcoholics and violent men are going to be having children as well affectionate and caring men.  Men who care will show it by the actions and the words they use.  But just as in any form of abuse, men are most frequently protected by the women being abused due to the fragile economic support women have, and this is magnified by the vulnerability of the condition of pregnancy.

So how do we get men interested in changing their behavior, so that women will be more protected, cared for and loved, basically,  how do you change a man’s ways and get him to settle down.  First of all, it is an issue of will.  But, it is also an issue of education or knowledge.  Men need to step forward and man it up.  They need to take responsibility for the conception, the pregnancy and their becoming fathers, but that isn’t enough; they need to know how to act, and to choose what is right over what is wrong.

Stressed out and mad

First, guys face a lot of stress, and they are going to need help to manage that stress.  Starting a family is probably the first time in years that men have to develop any sort of dependence on others in the community. Having emotional support isn’t going to be something most men even consider, but they are living in la la land.  Fatherhood is one of the biggest changes and greatest stressors a man will go through.

Some of the stressors involved would include disruption in the family income.  Often women who work go on maternity leave, and then don’t go back to the job for a while or at all.  Men are often left with no paternity leave, so they have to consider taking vacation time to go to the birth and to have time for the family to settle in.  Another stressor that frequently pops up is that the couple takes on a larger, more expensive residence.  The mortgage or rent is higher, and the move itself is a major life stressor.

Add to that the intrusion of in-laws or other people who begin showing up in the pregnant couple’s life.  Especially dangerous are manipulative, bossy and controlling mother-in-laws.  Men often feel out-staged shown up and even disrespected when another party begins barking off orders or advice, no matter how sweetly they are offered.  It works both ways, so the guy’s mother might also impose her will too.

As mentioned before, when the sleep cycle is disrupted, some men are like me, unlikable at best.  Sleep is important for men as well as women.  Men need to do what it takes to sleep a full night, so they can have optimal energy to support a pregnancy, childbirth and the beginning of a family.  Add to that the lack of sex, and you might see men frustrated and even angry.  Pregnancy for first time fathers is a new experience, and can seem overwhelming in so many ways. Those who have a less flexible temperament can find this time period in their lives a bit of a challenge.

A well-known expression suggests that the three most import areas of life are love, hope and faith.  Employ these concepts to overcome the common stressors about how your family is going to afford to live and to function and adapt: those issues should be secondary to the relationship the couple has.  A weak relationship needs to be strengthened.  Counseling and external support can make all the difference for women.  Especially important is to eliminate a woman’s anxieties and fears.

Men you need to find someone else to discuss your concerns about the adjustments that you are having to make.  The closer you are to someone, the least objective you or they may be, causing relational friction and emotional disturbances.  That’s why I have recommended that you start developing some new relationships with other, more experienced men with children.

Though there is a plethora of female hormones that are concocted during pregnancy and childbirth, even for men, it is these higher values that can keep a relationship level and that will lessen the chance for postpartum blues and depression.  Postnatal depression is a distressing and socially debilitating condition that can affect the development of the baby and adversely affect other family members.  In another study I read, 75 percent of women with postpartum depression had similar symptoms of major depression.

It is in the best interest of men, to work on eliminating as much strife and discord from their relationship with their mates.  If they love and respect themselves, they will turn to others for help in processing and dealing with the stress of their relationship.  Ignoring the significance of the coming child is seriously stupid.  Unfortunately most men seem to think that it is woman’s work and not their issue.  But the pregnancy and childbirth is just as much an event that will impact their lives indefinitely.  Men need to stop burying their heads in the sand.

References for this article:

Boath, E., Pryce, A. & Cox, J. (1998).  Postnatal depression.  The impact on the family.  Journal of Reproductive & Infant Psychology, 16 (2/3), 199. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Dennis, C. and Chung-Lee, L.  (2006). Postpartum Depression Help-Seeking Barriers and Maternal Treatment Preferences: A Qualitative Systematic Review.  Birth. 33, 4. Retrieved from Wiley On-line.

Goodman, J.  2004.  Paternal postpartum depression, its relationship to maternal postpartum depression, and implications for family health.  Journal of Advanced Nursing.  45, 1.  Retrieved from Wiley On-line.

Gun-Mette B. Røsand, Kari Slinning, Malin Eberhard-Gran, Espen Røysamb and Kristian Tambs. 2011. Partner relationship satisfaction and maternal emotional distress in early pregnancy.  BMC Public Health (in press)

One Comment leave one →
  1. jmostyle permalink
    October 20, 2011 6:39 pm

    Great List!!! My name is Justin and I’m a new father to be, I realized there’s not that many useful resources for men’s pregnancy resources for real men, not meathead macho type a’s, here’s what I came up with so far —

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