Keep the Dad Around: Your Baby's Life Depends on It

Cynthia Dermody
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father touching pregnant wife's pregnant belly

I personally couldn't imagine having a baby on my own, without my husband there to support me through all the questions, worries, and pain, as well as to share in the joy and miraculousness of it all. And that's after the baby comes.

Some moms don't have that choice after or even during pregnancy (while some actually make that choice themselves). Here's something shocking I recently discovered about that: A father's involvement during pregnancy is critical to that baby's survival.

When I saw this headline, I thought it must be overstated. Babies whose fathers are absent during the mother's pregnancy have a 1 in 4 chance of dying in their first year of life.

That's just crazy. I could supply several names right now to refute that. How could that possibly be?

First of all, this study appears to apply only to women who are left in the lurch or abandoned during pregnancy -- not women who make the choice to embark on single motherhood themselves, or who are in a homosexual relationship with a loving partner.

But the numbers don't lie. The University of South Florida looked at survival rates of babies who had fathers' names listed on their birth certificates versus those who didn't and found:

  • Babies without involved fathers are more likely to be born with lower birth weights, preterm, and small for their gestational age. All these conditions boost the risk of health issues and even death.
  • Pregnant mothers with uninvolved fathers are more likely to experience obstetric complications such as anemia, chronic high blood pressure, eclampsia, and placental abruption.
  • The father's absence increases stress for the mother and can affect her behavior, like making her smoke or drink, which could lead to canceled prenatal care sessions.
  • The outcome was the same whether the woman was white, black, or Hispanic, and it didn't matter how much money she made or how educated she was.

BUT, even more startling is the chances of a black baby dying were sevenfold greater than for whites or Hispanics, likely due to the lack of economic, social, and emotional support in that community.

I can fully understand why researchers would do a study like this -- to encourage dads to stick around and support the mothers as much as possible. But I also think it raises more questions than answers -- like are women really that dependent on men? I agree fathers are important, but we also do pretty darn good on our own, so I just can't reconcile that one.

Are you a single expectant mom not by choice? Are you worried about your baby's survival?


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