When first-time expectant fathers attended a short 3-session antenatal course, the expectant mothers reported better mental health afterwards.
The three sessions for fathers covered stages of fetal growth, common problems of pregnancy, the role of the father, the concept of attachment and ways of communicating with the unborn baby. The researchers called this a “paternal-fetal attachment” course. The sessions involved discussion, watching videos, information materials and doing homework.
Mothers were asked to complete the General Health Questionnaire. They were selected for the study if their score was within the bottom 16% (below one standard deviation from the average).
29 couples were selected in this way and randomly assigned to two groups: half received normal antenatal care and half received this and, in addition, the antenatal course for fathers.
In the intervention group the mean scores of mothers improved for somatic symptoms, anxiety and sleep problems, social function and depressive symptoms. In all cases the mean scores worsened in the control group. Meanwhile fathers in the intervention group scored more highly for attachment to the fetus.
The study is another example of family interdependence. Mothers’ health improves when fathers are supported to engage more with the pregnancy and identify more closely with the baby, even before the birth. Engaging fathers is part of core health care for mothers.
Yuan L, Gu Z, Peng H & Zhao L (2018), A paternal-fetal attachment pilot intervention on mental health for pregnant mothers, NeuroQuantology 16
Photo: Jeansman Lee. Creative Commons.