Expectant Fathers Lag Behind Moms in Pregnancy Acceptance

expectant mom+dad

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m very concerned about my husband. We’re just a month away from our due date and although he has been very involved and attentive throughout the pregnancy, in the last couple of weeks he’s becoming more and more withdrawn. He seems annoyed with me a lot, and when I try to get him to talk about his fears and anxieties as an expectant father, all he says is that he has them. That’s it. Will I ever get my old husband back again or am I going to be in this thing alone?

A: What you’re going through is pretty common. That doesn’t make it any easier, but sometimes it’s comforting to know that you’re not alone. It may also help you to know that there’s a very good chance that your husband will return to normal fairly soon after the baby arrives.

When I was doing research for my book, The Expectant Father, I made an interesting discovery. Dads-to-be are generally a trimester behind their pregnant partners. Here’s what I mean.
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The Effect of Expectant Father’s Mental Health on Their Children

There’s been a lot of research over the years showing that having a depressed mother increases the chance that a child—even an infant—will exhibit depressive symptoms. There’s also been a lot of research on the influence that a pregnant mom’s mood may have on the child after the birth. But until now, there has been precious little investigation of the influence of fathers’ mood on their children—before or after birth.

A study just published in the journal Pediatrics has identified a like between expectant dads’ mental health during their partner’s pregnancy and their children’s mental health as toddlers, specifically behavioral and emotional problems. Researchers in Norway studied 31,000 children and found that at 17 or 18 weeks gestation, 3 percent of the expectant fathers had “high levels of psychological distress.” And the higher the dad-to-be’s stress level, the greater his child’s risk of acting out at age three.

The study, “Paternal Mental Health and Socioemotional and Behavioral Development in Their Children,” appeared in the February, 2013 issue of Pediatrics.

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