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We often forget that the faces behind preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome are not just feminine; they are also the faces of fathers and fathers-to-be who are coping with their wife's complicated pregnancy, the loss of a baby, or the loss of their beloved wife or significant other.
Fathers come to the Foundation's Community Forum looking for answers to their unique questions: how to deal with post-pregnancy health care, how to be a champion for their wife's best care, or whether they are "overreacting" to their perceptions of inadequate health care. Some of these questions mirror ones that women ask, but for men who are accustomed to being the "problem solvers", it can be even scarier to feel that they have very little to no control over the pregnancy's outcome. This perspective is also shared by several families in If Only We Knew..., the Foundation's documentary on preeclampsia.
One female forum poster noted this imbalance of support: "When I lost my son just last year due to HELLP syndrome, I remember being totally out of it while in the hospital...My husband was critical in my recovery. He was there with me every step of the way. Yet when I think back to that time of our lives, I wonder who was there for him? I wonder what was going through his mind at that point and time; how was he dealing with everything? Like myself, he wasn't aware of HELLP syndrome and/or its exact impact on me and our son. He just knew that he lost his child and that he and his wife were in pain. Some fathers are left alone to either care for their baby alone without the mother or they and the mother remain to pick up the pieces, hoping to answer why their baby died and how to look for warning signs that could help us prevent such a tragedy from happening again."
Pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome can be doubly frustrating for men because of the inability to take action, or to know what to do to help support their partners through the trying experience. The Community Forum provides some of those answers, as well as providing examples from a community of men who have lived through the experience themselves.
"Pregnancy is a wonderful experience and can be just as good for the father as well as the mother," one forum father-to-be explains quite eloquently. "The best thing a potential father can do is become educated about pregnancy and the overall process of the journey. There are factors that are within both of the parents' control and things that are out of their control. Fathers should be supportive and understanding of their partner's needs... Fathers need to learn to be prepared to deal with any situation that may come up to assist their partner and child throughout the process. The journey should be taken with an open heart and mind so that each man can become the best father he can be."
Are you worried about your partner's pregnancy? Has your partner already had preeclampsia? Do you have advice for other dads who could be going through similar experiences as yourself? We invite all fathers-to-be or recent preeclampsia-experienced men to visit the Community Forum, ask questions, provide support and help educate both women AND men about the warning signs of preeclampsia and how to advocate for apporpriate health care.
International Society for the study of Hypertension in Pregnancy
October 23, 2016
San Paulo, Brazil