It would be simple to say that the problems in maternity care in this country, including high intervention rates, poor outcomes and high cost, are “women’s problems,” but it would be untrue. Men are deeply affected by the crisis in maternity care now too. On a personal level, as fathers, they carry the heavy burden of caring for their partners throughout pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. Expectations of parental involvement in pregnancy are high now, and many men must juggle the daily demands of their jobs with medical appointments, prenatal testing, ultrasounds, which require time off during working hours and pull them away from their workplace. Finances and job security are high on their list of concerns at the same time that they are called away to support their partner and participate in the pregnancy. Managing childbirth classes and dealing with major life changes such as finding space in the house for the new baby, or having to purchase a bigger car or baby furnishings weigh heavy in men’s minds. Stress is increased if their partner or newborn needs extra care, which can further affect their attendance and performance at work. Their income is affected in the form of insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles when paying for care that is more expensive than it needs to be, and fosters poor outcomes that demand even more care.
The psychological effects of managing the conflicts and dealing with the additional stresses of parenthood as a working father can take a toll in terms of productivity on the job. This can create a vicious cycle of stress reducing productivity, which further increases the stress. This level of high anxiety can affect a man’s health, his ability to do his job, his connection to his partner, and his connection to his baby. Extended periods like this can ultimately even effect his partner and child if it leads to illness or abuse.
Businesses that provide family friendly work environments create programs that reduce these types of conflicts and stresses. Flex-time, telecommuting, in-house support resources including financial planning and childcare can go a long way towards making a work/family life balance achievable for working fathers. Men who are given the tools they need to manage the demands of both work and family are happier and more productive on the job. Businesses that strive to go the extra mile to help their employees reach that balance will find that the costs associated with these programs are offset by lower healthcare costs, less absenteeism, and a more loyal workforce.
The ultimate program that businesses can work to implement though, is a reworking of our healthcare system so that the system is more efficient, less costly, and produces better outcomes. That would reduce everyone’s stress levels.