Mental Illness in Fathers Increases Premature Birth Risk

Mental Illness in Fathers Increases Premature Birth Risk

The Impact of Parental Mental Health on Preterm Birth

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It’s no secret that a mother’s mental health has an impact on the risk of preterm birth. However, a recent study conducted by researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has shed light on the influence of the father’s mental health as well. The study, which analyzed data on all live births to Nordic parents in Sweden between 1997 and 2016, revealed that the risk of premature birth was higher for infants whose parents had a psychiatric diagnosis compared to those without. The findings were published in PLOS Medicine on July 20, 2023.

Out of the 1.5 million babies included in the study, approximately 15% were born to parents with a mental health diagnosis. For parents without any diagnosis, the rate of preterm birth was 5.8%. However, if either the mother or father had a mental health diagnosis, the risk increased. Paternal diagnosis increased the risk to 6.3% of births, while maternal diagnosis raised the risk to 7.3%. The highest risk was observed when both parents had a mental health diagnosis, affecting 8.3% of births. Moreover, the study revealed that the risk further intensified for parents with multiple co-existing psychiatric disorders.

“Children of parents with mental illness are at increased risk of being born too early — both the mothers’ and fathers’ are important,” highlighted study author Weiyao Yin, a postdoctoral researcher. The impact of preterm birth on babies is significant, as it is associated with negative health consequences such as anemia, jaundice, immune system problems, cerebral palsy, and even a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

To address these concerning findings, the study authors recommend further research to investigate how additional social support and prenatal care for families with a history of psychiatric disorders could potentially affect the duration of pregnancy, known as gestational age.

While the study provides valuable insights, it is crucial to consider the limitations. The research was based on data from Nordic parents in Sweden, and therefore, the findings may not be entirely applicable across different populations and cultural contexts. Additionally, the study only examined the association between parental mental health and preterm birth, and further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms driving this relationship.

The findings of this study emphasize the importance of supporting both parents’ mental well-being during pregnancy. This includes providing accessible mental health services, promoting open communication about emotions and concerns, and ensuring comprehensive prenatal care that considers and addresses the mental health of both parents. By prioritizing the mental health of expectant parents, healthcare providers can contribute to healthier pregnancies and, ultimately, positively impact the well-being of newborns.

Additional Information

For more information on preterm birth, the World Health Organization (WHO) offers valuable resources and insights. It is crucial to raise awareness about the risks and consequences of preterm birth, as well as the measures that can be taken to reduce the occurrence and improve outcomes for both infants and parents.


  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • PLOS Medicine research article: “Impact of Parental Mental Health on Risk of Preterm Birth” (July 20, 2023)

Image Image Source: MedicineNet


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