Why Men and Fathers are Essential for Maternal Health
Celebrating Father’s Day by sharing the importance of men’s roles in improving maternal health outcomes.
When dads are educated about maternal health and are encouraged to be involved in mom’s pregnancy, it can lead to better birth preparedness, higher attendance at postnatal care appointments, reduced maternal workload during pregnancy, improved family planning, improved communication between couples, and enhanced emotional support for women during pregnancy.
This Father’s Day, while we celebrate the importance of a father’s love and support, we will also focus on the many ways that fathers and men play a role in the future of maternal health.
In countries where men and women share responsibility, autonomy and independence, where they’re educated and enjoy equal economic opportunities and where they’re represented equally in government, women also fare better as mothers.
In families and communities where men and women are assigned or take on different responsibilities, have different rights, benefits and opportunities and where they have different or unequal access to or control of resources and where they have unequal power in decision-making processes, mothers often fare poorly.
When women live in families or countries where they’re not allowed to make their own healthcare, educational, economic and reproductive decisions, their survival often lies in the hands of their father or their baby’s father. When he is supportive of his daughter or wife’s health, engaged in his children’s lives and invested in his family’s wellbeing, even when he lives in a disadvantaged area or a country where women are not empowered, his wife and children tend to fare better on all levels.
It’s no coincidence that the countries that enjoy the highest levels of gender equity are the same ones that have the highest ranking in terms of maternal health outcomes. Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark are always at the top of the list in terms of countries with the best gender equity in education, economics and government representation. Among the countries that are considered to have both the worst gender equity and worst maternal health statuses are countries like Afghanistan, Somalia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Gender Based Violence
Violence against women includes domestic and intimate partner violence, trafficking, sexual assault, female genital cutting, forced marriage, honor killings, psychological abuse and other crimes of violence. It isn’t confined to any particular country or political, social, religious, ethnic or economic status, but is pervasive in all parts of society in every country around the world. It’s so common in every society and comes in so many forms that the United Nations says 70% of women will experience violence in some form during her lifetime.
Domestic violence is particularly prevalent during pregnancy. In fact, in the United States, approximately 1 out of 6 woman is beaten by her partner during pregnancy. In other parts of the world, the statistics are much higher — 1 out of 3 women — in large part because gender-based violence is widely accepted as a normal part of society.
We see increased incidences of rapes and beatings taking place in violent marriages and intimate partnerships that result in unwanted pregnancies, preterm labor, miscarriages, and severe injuries. In fact, in relationships where violence is present, beatings often increase during pregnancy.
We see increased incidences of maternal death in girls forced to marry during childhood and adolescence. In fact the leading cause of death in girls ages 15 to 19 is related to pregnancy and childbirth. We see girls and women who are refused access to basic healthcare during pregnancy who develop serious complications that often times lead to death or chronic illness.
In homes and families where women are safe, respected, and supported by the men in their lives and specifically by their husbands, partners or baby’s fathers, women and their children generally experience greater levels of health and wellbeing.
Many of us who work for Every Mother Counts are wives and mothers. We work hard at our jobs and we’re dedicated to our families. Many of us travel frequently and we’re deeply focused on doing the best job possible and providing highest service we can to women and mothers around the world. It’s a juggle that’s only possible because we have the ongoing respect, partnership and support of the men in our lives, the fathers of our children. Their commitment to sharing family and economic responsibilities as equitably as possible is what makes it all work. For billions of men around the world, the definition of what it means to be a good father is different in many ways, but universally, being a good father starts with how he treats the mother of his child.