We always tend to associate preterm birth with the health of the mother but recently researchers have thrown light on an often-overlooked factor influencing the risk of preterm delivery which is the mental health of fathers. This new study finds a strong correlation between fathers’ mental health and preterm birth, although prior research has mostly concentrated on the effect of maternal mental illness.
Findings of the study:
A recent study in the journal PLOS Medicine found that moms who suffer from a mental illness are more likely to deliver their babies early, before 37 weeks of pregnancy. The mental health of dads, however, also has an impact on the likelihood of premature birth. According to the study, which examined information on 1.5 million Swedish babies born between 1997 and 2016, the chance of premature birth is even higher when both parents had mental illnesses.
Preterm birth, or delivery before the whole term has passed, is linked to greater incidence of adverse child health outcomes. Premature birth increases the risk of problems and increases the likelihood of neurodevelopmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder in newborns.
15% of the infants involved in the study had at least one parent who had a mental health issue, according to the report. Children of mentally ill parents typically have younger gestational ages.
Mental Illness in both parents
Researchers found that infants whose fathers but not moms had a mental disease had a 12% higher risk of being born preterm when compared to infants whose parents did not have mental illnesses. If only the mother had a mental condition, the risk rose by 31%. There was a 52% increase in the likelihood of preterm birth when both parents had mental illnesses.
Disorders associated with Parental mental health
Stress-related disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder, were shown to have the highest risk of preterm birth among the many mental health problems examined. In comparison to situations where neither parent had a stress-related disease, the risk increased by 23% if the father had one, by 47% if the mother had one, and by 90% if both parents had a diagnosis.
Additionally increased was the probability of preterm birth among parents with numerous psychiatric problems. For instance, compared to children of mothers without any psychiatric disorders, children of mothers with depression were 25% more likely to be born preterm. The risk rose by 39% if the mother also had schizophrenia and depression at the same time. If the mother also had schizophrenia, depression, or an anxiety disorder, the risk increased to 65%.
Fathers’ Mental Health in Preterm Birth
The father’s contribution in this setting has not received as much attention as that of the mother, whose mental instability has been related to an increased risk of premature birth. The significance of a father’s mental condition in influencing the probability of preterm birth is emphasised by this study.
The complex underlying mechanism for this association may entail the effect of maternal stress hormones and early contractions on parental stress. Additionally, the support of a father during pregnancy may help to lessen the consequences of mother stress, but this support may not be there if both parents are struggling with mental illness.
The study emphasizes the need for further investigation into the possible benefits of prenatal treatment and social support for families dealing with mental illness in reducing the risk of preterm delivery. Furthermore, it is essential to comprehend how mental drugs and treatments affect the results of pregnancies.
The results highlight the need of acknowledging mental health as a significant determinant in pregnancy outcomes and urge greater understanding and assistance for pregnant families who are suffering from mental illness.