Studies show that reproduction and fetal development may be affected if a man is exposed to various substances. Exposure by the father-to-be to alcohol, cigarettes, certain drugs and some environmental hazards could cause problems for the unborn baby. Problems include miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects, low-birthweight babies, a greater risk of childhood cancer and even subtle learning disabilities. Exposure could also affect the man's ability to father a child.
Usually such exposure on the male's part is harmful if it occurs before and around the time of conception. However, we also know a father-to-be's smoking throughout his partner's pregnancy has been linked to some problems.
Researchers have shown that heavy alcohol consumption by the baby's father may produce a condition called fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in the baby. See chapter 12 for further information on FAS. Alcohol intake by the father has also been linked to intrauterine-growth retardation.
Your partner's drug habits may affect your pregnancy if he was using "recreational drugs" when you became pregnant. If this is your situation, tell your doctor and see what can be done to reassure you about your baby's well-being.
You need to be concerned if your partner is exposed to harmful chemicals or other substances at work. Substances may be brought into your home on your partner's work clothes. If you think you may be exposed to hazardous substances in this manner, be sure to discuss it with your partner and your healthcare provider.
He Smokes, You Don't
When a nonsmoking pregnant woman and her unborn baby are exposed to secondary smoke, both are exposed to harmful chemicals. It's a good idea to ask your partner to stop smoking during your pregnancy or at least not to smoke inside your home.
We now have information indicating the age and health of the father of your baby does make a difference in the baby's health. Some researchers believe there may be a slight increase in the risk of Down syndrome if the baby's father is over 50.