Have you ever wondered if there is a way to get men more involved in pregnancy? Encouraging them to be as present as possible is a start. But there is actually something tangible that could encourage men to be more interested. A study from Rutgers has discovered that placing subtle cues in doctor's waiting rooms aimed at men will make them more interested in prenatal care. Their interest in prenatal care has positive outcomes for both the mother and baby.
If offices that offer prenatal care made simple changes like adding pictures of men with babies, it could make a big difference. Even more subtly, adding pamphlets for men could have an impact. Right now, doctor's offices and clinics are very much tailored to women, which makes sense. But the changes could make men see that they have a place in the pregnancy too.
"Research suggests that father involvement during pregnancy causes psychological and physical health benefits for mothers and children, yet fathers often don't get involved during that crucial period. 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," says lead researcher and grad student of social psychology at Rutgers Analia Albuja.
For the study, the researchers created simulations of two different waiting rooms. One looked like a typical doctor's office waiting room, with prenatal care solely focusing on mothers. The other was made more father friendly — adding pictures of men with babies and information geared for men. Then the men either saw or visited one of the offices with their pregnant partners.
As a result, the researchers learned the father friendly offices had an impact. Men who visited such offices held "a stronger belief that the doctors had a high expectation of fathers' involvement in prenatal care" than those who didn't. Shifting men's perceptions about doctors' expectations for engagement is the key to getting them more involved. And that shift in beliefs give men the confidence boost they need when it comes to parenting. For the men who believed the doctors have higher expectations, reports show they were more willing to learn more about pregnancy. They were also more likely to engage in healthy habits, including abstaining from smoking and alcohol during the pregnancy.
"We should increase men's comfort and perceived expectations of involvement during pregnancy. This may be a simple intervention that would be easy for doctor offices to implement because of its low cost and scalability," says co-author Diana Sanchez, who is a professor of psychology at Rutgers-New Brunswick's School of Arts and Sciences.
Hopefully this has more positive influence on men, leading to more positive pregnancies for women.