A father's role
A common misconception today is that pregnancy is all and only about the woman. But in order for us to have healthy children, we need to also have healthy starting materials. And since 50% of those materials come from a male partner, men, too, must concern themselves with their health when reproduction is approaching.
I often tell my female patients that pregnancy for them is about a year long, as I encourage them to take 3 solid months before they conceive to act as though they were pregnant already. Men do have it easier though, as their need to be particularly health conscious is for about 3 months total.
Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Once puberty begins, her eggs will slowly mature and be released until menopause. For males, it’s a different story. Unlike their female counterparts, males are not born with any sperm at all. But once puberty begins, they start producing sperm and will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.
The time it takes to produce sperm from start to finish is approximately 90 days. So if a baby is conceived in December, whatever the male partner is exposed to from September or October until the date of conception may affect the health of the sperm that will go on to fertilize his female partner’s egg. This really matters.
You can’t build a strong house without solid materials, or prepare a gourmet meal without quality ingredients. So it’s not surprising that research has found that a male’s health can profoundly influence the health of their offspring.
Male exposures, which are commonly related to their workplace, have been associated with various birth defects, impaired neurodevelopment and increased rates of miscarriage amongst other things. Occupations that have been implicated include landscapers, artists, photographers and power line workers. Research in this field is still in its early stages, but increasing amounts of attention are being paid to the role of a father’s health in producing healthy children.
A recent review published in a leading maternal health journal entitled “Father’s role in preconception health” highlighted the research and risk factors that have so far been identified and encouraged additional work in this important field.
I like to see couples together at least once throughout the program to chat about any concerns that may particularly concern the prospective father. Fortunately many of the changes we talk about will naturally benefit the entire household, so seeing just the female for the majority of appointments is the norm, though partners are always most welcome.
If you’re considering trying to conceive anytime in the next 12 months, now is the time to start optimizing yours and your partner’s health. Change always takes time and we’re here to help.
Friedler, G. (1996). Paternal exposures: Impact on reproductive and developmental outcome. An overview. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 55(4), pp.691-700.
Cordier, S. (2008). Evidence for a Role of Paternal Exposures in Developmental Toxicity. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 102(2), pp.176-181.
Lowery MC1, Au WW, Adams PM, Whorton EB Jr, Legator MS. (1990). Male-mediated behavioral abnormalities. Mutat Red. 229(2). pp.213-29
Savitz, D., Sonnenfeld, N. and Olshan, A. (1994). Review of epidemiologic studies of paternal occupational exposure and spontaneous abortion. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 25(3), pp.361-383.
Kotelchuck, M. and Lu, M. (2017). Father’s Role in Preconception Health. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 21(11), pp.2025-2039.