Health & Fitness

How fathers can help stop pregnancy losses

pregnant

Summary

  • General advice on preventing miscarriages often focus on lifestyle changes targeting women such as eating healthy, exercising, avoiding smoking, not drinking alcohol, controlling stress and having a healthy weight.
  • Aside from the women, health experts note that men too can play a significant role in reducing the risk of pregnancy failures among their spouses.
  • A new study published in the Human Reproductive Journal indicates that over 25 percent of pregnancies might be ectopic or end in miscarriage or stillbirth if the father-to-be is unhealthy and has obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.

Just as most happily married couples, Mary and her husband John could not wait to have children after tying the knot.

Mary conceived shortly thereafter and was thrilled to learn that she was expecting twins.

"This was good news. As a family, we had planned to have two children. So I felt happy that this was going to be possible with just one pregnancy. I couldn't ask for more," she said.

Unfortunately, the happiness and joyful experience were short-lived.

"I miscarried after two months and this really crushed my spirit. For a long time afterwards, I battled depression and had to seek therapy to get back to my normal life."

The couple is still coming to terms with the ordeal and decided to 'recover' fully before trying to get pregnant again.

Mary is among the many women that have endured the suffering, which comes from losing their unborn babies through miscarriages, and other pregnancy related complications. The experience usually drives many mothers to determine the cause of the pregnancy failures and put in place measures to avert them in future.

General advice on preventing miscarriages often focus on lifestyle changes targeting women such as eating healthy, exercising, avoiding smoking, not drinking alcohol, controlling stress and having a healthy weight. Aside from the women, health experts note that men too can play a significant role in reducing the risk of pregnancy failures among their spouses.

A new study published in the Human Reproductive Journal indicates that over 25 percent of pregnancies might be ectopic or end in miscarriage or stillbirth if the father-to-be is unhealthy and has obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels.

Effective diagnosis, treatment and management of these ailments can help in reducing their adverse effects on pregnancies.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), miscarriages are the most common cause of losing a baby during pregnancy. It occurs when an unborn child dies before 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Any death that happens at, or after 28 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as a stillbirth.

In Kenya, statistics from The Ending Preventable Stillbirths report show that about 23 out of 1,000 children die daily at birth. This translates to 96 stillbirths per day.

Ectopic pregnancies on the other hand, occur when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tubes) then begins to grow.

These pregnancies cannot proceed normally as the egg cannot survive outside the uterus.

If unnoticed or left untreated, the condition can cause life threatening bleeding that is detrimental to both the mother and the child.

The new study assessed nearly a million pregnancies in the United States. It found that there was an increased risk of the mother losing the pregnancy if fathers were diagnosed with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels

"It's been known for some time that the health of mothers has an impact on the developing foetus and events at the time of birth. 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,” said Michael Eisenberg, the lead author of the study and associate professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine in the US.

"This study shows that there is an association between paternal health and pregnancy loss. The clinical implications of these findings are that pre-conception counselling should not forget the father, as his health may have an important impact on the pregnancy."

GENETIC MAKE-UP

Prof Eisenberg noted that the mechanisms by which the father's health might affect the risk of pregnancy loss is not clear.

"We hypothesise that the father's health and lifestyle could adversely affect the genetic make-up and expression in the sperm. And this may alter how well the placenta functions. If the placenta isn't working properly then this could lead to the pregnancy losses that we observed."

During the study, researchers analysed data from US insurance claims covering 958,804 pregnancies.

In total, there were 785,809 live births and 172,995 pregnancies (22 percent) lost to ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage or stillbirth during the period of the study.

While conducting the research, the scientists also sought to find out if the fathers of the children were suffering from obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol level during conception.

They found that about 23 percent of the men had at least one of the four conditions prior to conception.

At the end of the study, the results revealed that the risk of pregnancy loss increased by 10 percent, 15 percent and 19 percent respectively for men who had one, two or three or more of the conditions.