Dear Friends of Male Studies,
As Chairman of the Foundation for Male Studies, I have spent the better part of a year engaged in a project that will address inequities in the healthcare system that profoundly affect children, fathers and mothers. Recognizing that pregnancy, fatherhood and motherhood are interconnected yet distinct threshold events, the Foundation is engaging with leading physicians and scientists to create a holistic model for healthcare that includes the father in the perinatal medical screening and care that occurs during and after the threshold event of pregnancy.
With assistance from a research associate, I have reviewed studies from leading medical journals that support the case for creation of a road map leading to a new standard of care for fathers; one that recognizes the profound changes that occur during the fatherhood years.
The scientists and physicians who’ve conducted these studies work all over the world, and although they are building upon one another’s work, there have been few comprehensive meta-analyses of the research to build a case for a substantial longitudinal study of fathers and mothers during the critical period before, during and after childbirth. In short, the disparate studies have not galvanized a real-world pilot study to put hypotheses into action.
This holistic approach, evaluating mothers and fathers in service of a comprehensive infant and family care system, has the potential to become standard obstetrical practice around the world.
Every child’s creation requires the male and female pronuclei to move together within the egg, for the embryo’s genetic material to double and redouble, creating a union of male and female, a new being.
When a pregnant mother enters the healthcare system, she is questioned on the details of her health and wellness for the sake of mother and child, omitting the epigenetic implications for the father and the family as a unit.
Rarely, if ever, is the father of the child brought into the evaluation to determine if his health and wellness require intervention for the sake of mother, child, or himself. It is time for a new standard of care.
This omission of the partner from routine care in pregnancy has vast implications. As we now know, with particular reference to depression, its presence in either parent affects the other parent as well as the child both during the pregnancy and in the years of parent-child relating that follow.
The study being proposed, a meta-analysis of male partner depression with an aim of creating an actionable, inclusive model of parent evaluation, like pregnancy itself, is a threshold enterprise in the holistic re-imagining of the mother, father, child complex. It is a threshold – because it is only one factor in the world of epigenetic interconnections of mother, father and child, that are yet to be explored. The holistic study of mother, father and child, initially and longitudinally, will aid in buttressing the sturdiness of partner unions and the quality of parent child bonding as well as child development, all of which depend on parent wellness.
The opportunity to address the serious problem of peripartum depression experienced by women and men and its implications for the health of children, mothers, fathers, and partners is one for which the medical community is uniquely well-positioned yet oddly silent.
The Foundation for Male Studies intends to hire an exceptional data scientist to conduct a comprehensive meta-analysis of the existing literature addressing paternal depression, the most promising of which has taken place in the last decade. Upon completion of the study and publication of the findings, we hope to work with a major academic medical center to pilot a comprehensive longitudinal study encompassing at least 3,000 births. We believe this will revolutionize healthcare for fathers, mothers and their children.
We would be grateful for the opportunity to speak with scientists, policy-makers, foundation officers and philanthropists in your personal and professional networks to build interest in this project.
I will follow up with each of you who is interested in helping to spread the word about this effort, support it, or connect the Foundation to potentially interested individuals and organizations in your networks.
Edward M. Stephens, MD
Chairman, Foundation for Male Studies
Life member, American Medical Association
Life Member, American Psychiatric Association
Member, American Academy of Child and Adolescent psychiatry