Most of the conversations that occur between an expectant mother and her physician typically focus on the health of the woman. New research suggests this may be missing half of the story.
A recent study by Stanford University researchers found the risk of pregnancy loss was more than 10% higher when the fathers-to-be had medical conditions such as obesity, cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure in the year before conception. And the more paternal comorbidities there were, the greater the risk of pregnancy loss.
The researchers examined insurance claims in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016. Both mother and father had to be on the same insurance plan for a year before the estimated time of conception. They looked at various outcomes from nearly 1 million pregnancies, from live birth to spontaneous abortion, as well as parental health in the previous year.
About a quarter of the pregnancies examined resulted in a loss. There was a 10% higher risk of pregnancy loss when compared with fathers who had no comorbidities. The risk rose to 15% when fathers had two medical issues and 20% at three or more.
The study did not explore why these results occurred, but previous research indicates that alterations to proteins in the sperm caused by paternal illnesses may disrupt fetal development.
The findings bolster the growing belief that there is a strong link between paternal health and pregnancy outcomes. At minimum, the results suggest that men should do what they can to improve their own health before conception for their baby as well as for themselves.
After all, when it comes to having a healthy baby, it really is a team event.