Researchers at Rutgers University have come up with an ingenious way to get cisgender, heterosexual men more involved in prenatal care: make it more about them. A new study suggests that it’s possible to inspire participation in the gestation of their own freaking offspring, but only if you fill OB/GYN offices with dad-friendly pamphlets and reading materials. Which is to say, non-childbearing dudes might show up, take responsibility, and do their part, but not without a branding shift that makes pregnancy less about women and more about men.
Maybe I would have a more generous reading of the study’s results if we weren’t in the midst of a wholesale assault on women and the bodily autonomy of people with uteruses. But WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF A WHOLESALE ASSAULT ON WOMEN AND BODILY AUTONOMY. So fuck your need for daddy pamphlets.
Is how I feel. But moving on to the study.
Researchers created two different simulated prenatal care waiting rooms. One was outfitted with “only pictures of women and infants as décor, and information and magazines aimed toward women,” according to a press release. The other waiting room included these women-friendly accents, along with “pictures of men and infants, and information and magazines aimed toward men.” The men in the study either visited one of these waiting rooms or merely viewed online videos of the waiting rooms. In the former case, they were instructed to “imagine themselves waiting for an appointment at the office of an obstetrician-gynecologist.”
Across three studies, the researchers found that men exposed to the dad-friendly environments “led participants to think that doctors in that office would expect men to be more involved in the prenatal period.” That shift in perception around expectations was associated with “greater comfort in the doctor’s office, more confidence in their ability to be a good parent, and greater reported intentions to learn about pregnancy and engage in healthy behaviors along with their partner,” according to the study. Obviously, intentions are not actions, but the researchers suggest that these responses might ultimately influence behavior.
Getting cis, hetero fathers more involved prenatally seems like the right thing to do on the grounds of, you know, fucking fairness. But the researchers also argue that there is a positive impact on women and babies. “If this intervention increases men’s involvement in prenatal care, previous research suggests this should bring about healthier outcomes for women and infants, such as lower alcohol and tobacco use among mothers, and a lower likelihood of low birth weight infants,” said co-author Diana Sanchez in a press release.
So, fine, let the men have their daddy pamphlets. I’ll be over by the stack of Men’s Journals, biting my tongue.