When it comes to pregnancy, women are the stars of the show. We are the trackers of ovulation, the pee-ers on the stick, the one going to all those appointments, and of course, the warriors giving birth.
But men are pretty important too—we always knew that, don’t worry—but scientific research is now backing it up.
Of course, it is absolutely possible for women to have healthy pregnancies, awesome births and thriving children when a father isn’t present.
But for those men out there who feel like they are simply backstage for all of this, here are five ways that a dad (or future dad) can affect conception, pregnancy and beyond among heterosexual couples:
1. They have to worry about coffee, too
To reduce the risk of miscarriage, researchers suggest drinking no more than two caffeinated beverages—no matter if the one drinking them is the expecting mother or father.
Dr. Buck Louis of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “Our findings also indicate that the male partner matters, too… Male preconception consumption of caffeinated beverages was just as strongly associated with pregnancy loss as females.” So cut down on the coffee and hop into bed a bit earlier as a couple.
2. And drinking
We’ve all heard that women should limit their alcohol intake when they are trying to get pregnant—but it looks like this might apply to dads, too!
In a groundbreaking study, researchers found that male mice who consumed alcohol at the time of conception were more likely to have unhealthy fetuses than the mice who just drank water.
More studies need to be done about the extent of this concern. However Cynthia Daniels of Rutgers University told The Guardian, “”If you minimize your exposure to toxic substances then you might minimize your risks of reproductive harm.”
This goes for smoking too. Tobacco use prior to and during conception can cause changes in sperm as well.
3. Weight matters
Men who are at a healthy body mass index (BMI) have a better chances of conception than men who are overweight. Scientists are starting to find that there are changes within the sperm that can make them less healthy when a man is overweight.
In fact, the children of men who are overweight at the time of conception may actually be at risk for health problems later in life, such as diabetes. Good news though—diet and weight loss can help to reverse these sperm problems before they start.
Psst: Check out our guide to fertility boosting foods for guys.
4. And so does touch
Research has found that when a partner holds your hand during labor, your pain levels will actually decrease—significantly. So, make sure you get to those birth classes—and make it a date night!
Or, take our birth class from the comfort of your couch. Just sayin’ ?.
5. Be present
Women with partners who are involved and present during their pregnancies are less likely to suffer from depression, and are more likely to have overall mental health well-being.
Also, infants with fathers who were are involved with the pregnancy were more likely to be carried to full term, be born at a healthy weight, and to have a healthy first year.
And in his book Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, Paul Raeburn writes that fathers who are involved in pregnancies (regardless of if he is in a relationship with the mother or not), are more likely to be involved moving forward in the child’s life as well.
So yes, moms. You still deserve the chocolate, foot rubs and push presents. You just may have to share a little with your dude—he’s pretty important too.