Doctors have long known that the health of an expecting mother has a huge impact on her pregnancy and her child. They recently found out that women’s health even before they get pregnant can have long-term impacts for offspring. Now, a study is pointing out that dad’s health matters too.
The researchers looked at data from nearly 1 million pregnancies in the U.S., occurring between 2007 and 2016. They found that overall, 22% of those pregnancies ended in loss, either miscarriage or stillbirth. The likelihood of loss increased when the father had one or more components of metabolic syndrome, the authors explained in the study.
Metabolic syndrome is used to describe five health conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, high serum triglycerides, and low serum high-density lipoprotein. If the dad had one of these, the likelihood of pregnancy loss increased 10%, compared with fathers who had no components of metabolic syndrome. If the father had two components, the risk of miscarriage increase 15%; and if he had three or more the risk increased 19%.
Overall, there was a 17% of pregnancy loss if the father had no metabolic conditions; that rose to 27% when he had three or more, study author Michael Eisenberg, an associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, told The Independent.
Researchers believe that the health of sperm impacts how well the placenta functions — and therefore how healthy the pregnancy is.
“We hypothesize that the father’s health and lifestyle could adversely affect the genetic make-up and expression in the sperm, and that this may alter how well the placenta functions,” Eisenberg said.
Previous research has shown that men who smoke and who have poor diets have sperm that is less healthy. However, Eisenberg’s research team is the first to make a connection between paternal health and pregnancy loss, he said.
“This is the first study to suggest that pregnancies sired by men with increasing numbers of medical conditions are at higher risk of ending in miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth,” he said.
The research team said that there needs to be more work to understand exactly how a dad’s health can impact conception and pregnancy health. However, Eisenberg said that the findings should impact how couples are counseled about fertility starting now.
“The clinical implications of these findings are that preconception counseling should not forget the father, as his health may have an important impact on the pregnancy,” he said.
Overall, metabolic syndrome is increasing in the United States, affecting up to one-third of the population, according to come estimates. Increasingly, doctors are realizing that men — like women — should be advised to be as healthy as possible if they are thinking about having a baby.
“An impetus is required to encourage men to focus on and improve their preconception health and to utilize primary health-care services to take action,” a 2018 article in the American Journal of Men’s Health argued. “An assertive men’s preconception health outlook can positively influence the conjugal relationship, fathering, male self-esteem, and continued good health.”
So, if you’re thinking about trying to conceive, bring your partner along to your next doctor’s appointment. Think about what healthy changes — like eating more wholesome foods, avoiding alcohol or getting more exercise — you can implement together. Working on your health as a couple can be fun, and increase the health of your future family!
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