Prenatal or Postnatal Visit

Because the birth of a newborn can create challenges in the marital relationship, pediatricians can take advantage of the prenatal visit to provide information that will help parents navigate this major life change as smoothly as possible.

BACKGROUND

  1. Parents who come for a prenatal visit are eager for information that will help them adjust to parenting. They are invested in parenting and are determined to do everything right.
  2. Pediatricians are in a unique position to educate and influence parents before they are overwhelmed by the care of their newborn.

PROMOTING STRONG, STABLE FAMILIES

  1. Each parent makes a unique contribution to their children.
  2. Children do best when raised by their biological father and biological mother, who remain in a married relationship throughout the child’s life.
  3. Our culture makes divorce easy, encouraging separation when married life becomes difficult.
  4. Pediatricians can provide parents with information that will help them navigate the difficult and stressful times so their marriage is more likely to remain intact.

SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH

A growing and increasingly sophisticated body of research indicates that children with married parents (both a father and a mother) have more healthful measures of:

Thriving as infants

Physical and mental health

Educational attainment

Protection from poverty

Emotional resilience

Protection from antisocial behavior

Protection from physical abuse

Child Trends, a leading nonpartisan research organization committed to the health and well-being of children, examined the question of what family structure best contributes to a child’s health. The research found “… that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.”(1)

In a 2007 report on marriage in America, the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University stated that more children today are “not living in families that include their own married, biological parents, which by all available empirical evidence is the gold standard for insuring optimal outcomes in a child’s development.”(2)

THE CONVERSATION

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This timing of the conversation is dependent on the state of the parents. Is this a first child or do they already have children?

This conversation involves the parents of the child.

Note: This conversation is for the purpose of helping parents adjust to parenthood and is not intended to delineate all topics pediatricians may cover in a prenatal visit.

Acknowledge that parents come from different backgrounds, cultures, and parenting styles and have different temperaments, personalities, and needs.

Remind parents that they will be blending these differences, which will normally lead to conflict.

Explain, however, that children will benefit from these differences because children will be exposed to a variety of problem-solving skills, learning methods, and communication styles.

Acknowledge that people experience love in different ways.

This is a great opportunity to mention briefly the five love languages as described by Dr. Gary Chapman in his book, The 5 Love Languages.(3)

  • Quality time
  • Gifts
  • Words of affirmation/encouragement
  • Physical touch
  • Acts of service

Encourage parents to determine each other’s love language so they will make sure their “love tank” is filled during the stressful times of parenting.

Acknowledge that the transition to parenting is huge, going from an emphasis on “doing” to “being” a parent.

Most of us base our self-esteem, self-worth, and identity on what we “do.”

We introduce ourselves to each other by stating our occupation or hobby.

Many people maintain “to do” lists to ensure they have accomplished something each day: They mark tasks off the list and feel accomplished, they feel as if they are “good,” they feel worthwhile.

However, after a baby arrives, a good day might look like this:

  • Feeding the baby
  •  Changing the baby
  • Feeding the baby
  • Changing the baby

 You get the idea!

At the end of the day, there is nothing on the list that can be marked off because it all has to be done again.

Mothers often feel at the end of the day that they have accomplished nothing. This equates to the feeling that the mother is not a successful or good person. This feeling, along with major hormonal changes, contributes to postpartum depression.

Explain that there is a solution to ease the transition to parenting.

Most of us base our self-esteem, self-worth, and identity on what we “do.”

We introduce ourselves to each other by stating our occupation or hobby.

Many people maintain “to do” lists to ensure they have accomplished something each day.

  • They mark tasks off the list and feel accomplished.
  • They feel as if they are “good.”
  • They feel worthwhile.

Mothers often feel at the end of the day that they have accomplished nothing. This equates to the feeling that the mother is not a successful or good person.

This feeling, along with major hormonal changes, contributes to postpartum depression.

Encourage parents to spend quality time together discussing these issues before the baby arrives.

 

REFERENCES

  1. Moore KA, Jekielek S, Emig C. Marriage from a child’s perspective: how does family structure affect children, and what can we do about it? Child Trends Research Brief; 2002:6, http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/MarriageRB602.pdf.
  2. Popenoe D, Whitehead B. The State of Our Unions 2007: The Social Health of Marriage in America. Piscataway, NJ: The National Marriage Project; 2007:6, http://www.stateofourunions.org/pdfs/SOOU2007.pdf.
  3. Chapman G. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts. Chicago, IL:  Northfield Publishing; 2010, https://www.amazon.com/Love-Languages-Secret-that-Lasts/dp/080241270X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467049118&sr=8-1&keywords=The+5+Love+Languages%3A+The+Secret+to+Love+That+Lasts.

RESOURCES

  1. Bennett T. Marital status and infant health outcomes. Soc Sci Med. 1992;35:1178-1187.
  2. In Sweden: Arntzen A, Moum T, Magnus P, Bakketeig LS. Marital status as a risk factor for fetal and infant mortality. Scand J Soc Med. 1996;24:36-42; in England: Schuman J. Social and biological factors in deaths of children aged under 3. Popul Trends. 1996;92:5-14; in Finland: Forssas E, Gissler M, Sihvonen M, Hemminki E. Maternal predictors of perinatal mortality: the role of birthweight. Int J Epidemiol. 1999;28:475-478.
  3. Wilcox WB, Doherty WJ, Fisher H, et al. Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Institute for American Values; 2005:23.
  4. Dawson DA. Family structure and children’s health and well-being: data from the national health interview survey on child health. J Marriage Fam. 1991;53:573-584.
  5. Amato PR. The impact of family formation change on the cognitive, social, and emotional well-being of the next generation. Marriage and Child Wellbeing. 2005;15(2):78.
  6. Brown S. Family structure and child well-being: the significance of parental cohabitation. J Marriage Fam. 2004;66:351-367.
  7. Moynihan DP. A Dahrendorf inversion and the twilight of the family: the challenge of the conference. In: Moynihan, DP, Smeeding, TM, Rainwater, L, eds. The Future of the Family. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation; 2004:xxi.
  8. Kreider RM. Living Arrangements of Children: 2004. Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau; 2008:6.
  9. Painter G, Levine D. Family structure and youths’ outcomes: which correlations are causal? J Hum Resour. 2000;35:524-549.
  10. Stiffman MN, Schnitzer PG, Adam P, Kruse RL, Ewigman BG. Household composition and risk of fatal child maltreatment. 2002;109:615-621.