How to Empower Fathers in the Fight for Mothers’ Lives
How is it possible that in the richest nation in the world, giving birth too often remains a death sentence?
New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the National Center for Health Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that the United States is now the most dangerous place among high-income countries to give birth, with maternal deaths reaching the highest rate in nearly 60 years. Black women were disproportionately affected by maternal mortality, with a mortality rate 2.6 times higher than that of white women, and 30% of all maternal deaths occurred among black women.
Doctors and health officials have attributed the alarming trend to many factors such as cardiovascular issues, health care disparities, and added pressure from COVID-19, including health care disruptions during the pandemic. pandemic. Nevertheless, as we seek ways to prevent maternal mortality in the United States, the role of a key group in promoting maternal health and reducing maternal mortality rates is increasingly recognized: expectant fathers. .
By empowering and educating expectant fathers – for example, by reforming family-related public policies, increasing access to health services, improving communication between health care providers and fathers, and promoting cultural and social norms favoring the involvement of fathers in maternal and child health – we can reduce maternal mortality rates.
One way to empower fathers is to implement paid family leave policies, which a growing body of research shows can have significant positive effects on maternal health outcomes. For example, studies in Europe and other countries where paid family leave is extended to fathers suggest that even minimal paternal leave (two days to five weeks, compared to 12 to 40 weeks for mothers) has an effect positive impact on outcomes such as postpartum depression, maternal mental health, increased postnatal medical checkups, and increased time spent with the infant.
In addition, paid paternal leave is also associated with reduction of salary and career gaps for mothers, more equal household financial contributions and a more equal distribution of household responsibilities. In particular, the research shows a significant increase in the time fathers spend with their children, especially among low-income households.
Unfortunately, the United States lags behind other developed countries in terms of paid family leave policies. THE Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) offers eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, but that doesn’t help fathers who can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Unpaid leave is not a realistic option for many workers who cannot afford it or risk losing their jobs if they take it. Such policies are likely to be the most efficient when they get full or nearly full wage replacement and incentivize fathers to take time off. In the United States, paid paternity leave depends on employers offering it as a benefit to workers, and is therefore disproportionately offered to more advantaged employees, deepening racial and socioeconomic disparities. To address these disparities and improve maternal health outcomes, a federal paid family leave policy should be implemented in the United States.
In addition, the education of future fathers can also be a decisive factor in promoting maternal health. Simply put, fathers often lack knowledge about maternal health. By helping fathers understand the importance of attending prenatal appointments, recognize danger signs during pregnancy, promote healthy behaviors, and seek prompt medical attention when needed, they can support positive pregnancy outcomes. health.
Programs like “Fathers supporting breastfeeding“, for example, providing education and support to fathers to promote breastfeeding, which is associated with improvements in maternal and child health – ranging from reduced risk of asthma and diabetes to reduced risk of postpartum depression In fact, paternal breastfeeding support is one of the strongest indicators that new moms will attempt to breastfeed, and families whose fathers have attended prenatal training are more likely to overcome challenges and be successful in their breastfeeding journey.
As powerful, vocal, and visible advocates within their families and communities, fathers can help promote positive attitudes toward maternal health and encourage others to take action. A mixed methods study The Three of Us Lead Right Now examines fathers as agents of change in reducing maternal mortality in the District of Columbia, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, especially among black women.
It is time to recognize the important role fathers play in maternal and child health and take steps to fully empower them through paid family leave policies and education. By providing support and advocacy during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum recovery, fathers can help ensure their partners receive the care they need to have a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
Y. Tony Yang is a professor of health policy at the George Washington University School of Nursing and the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Sherrie Flynt Wallington is an Associate Professor and Researcher in Health Disparities and Health Equity at George Washington University. Terrance Staley is the Managing Director of Alliance of Concerned Men in DC
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