Father's Health Can Affect Child's Hospital, Emergency Visits

Marcia Frellick

September 12, 2021

The more comorbidities a father has before his child's conception, the higher the risk that the child will require an emergency department visit or inpatient care in the first 2 years of life, new data indicate.

Tony Chen

It is not clear whether the association is related to biology, lifestyle, or both, but the findings represent an opportunity to engage men in preconception counseling, said Tony Chen, MD, clinical assistant professor in urology at Stanford Health Care in California, who presented his team's findings at the American Urological Association 2021 Annual Meeting.

"Previous studies show that only 10% of men seek preconception counseling," Chen said, noting that it is much more common for women to do so.

"If you combine that fact with what we see in our data, this presents a significant chance to motivate men to improve their lives and their offspring's lives," he said.

Previous studies have largely focused on the effect of the mother's preconception health on her child, so little is known about the influence of the father's preconception health.

Chen's team used 2009 to 2016 data from the IBM MarketScan Research database, which collects information on inpatient and outpatient healthcare claims from private, employer-insured people.

Of the 295,355 boys and 278,735 girls born during the study period, 34.9% had at least one visit to the emergency department, and 6.0% had an inpatient admission.

Diagnostic codes were used to determine how many components of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) — hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and obesity — each mother and father had.

The odds of an inpatient admission or emergency department visit increased as the number of the father's comorbidities increased, after adjustment for birth year, region, offspring sex, age of mother, maternal MetS, prematurity, admission to the newborn intensive care unit, low birth weight, time of follow-up, and parental smoking status.

For example, the child of a father with two MetS components was 13% more likely to require hospitalization in the first 2 years of life than the child of a father with no MetS components (95% CI, 1.08 - 1.19). And the child of a father with three or more MetS components was 22% more likely to have at least one emergency department visit (95% CI, 1.15 - 1.29), and 48% more likely to have at least three visits than the child of a father with no components (95% CI, 1.36 - 1.61).

"The rate of hospitalization was highest in the 0- to 6-month age group, and was lowest in the 18- to 24-month age group," Chen reported. The same was true for the rate of emergency department visits.

Petar Bajic

It is possible that men with health issues might see a doctor frequently before conception and, therefore, might be more comfortable taking their child to the emergency department than someone who does not frequently see doctors, suggested Petar Bajic, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic and the Center for Men's Health at the Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute in Cleveland.

But more work needs to be done to raise awareness about the availability of preconception counseling and its benefits for both men and women, he told Medscape Medical News. Such counseling can happen in many different medical settings.

"There are a number of opportunities for improving the quality of counseling we're giving to couples," Bajic said. "We also need to increase the amount of information online, because we know a lot of couples are getting their educational information on the internet and we need to make sure there are reliable sources backed by evidence."

Chen and Bajic have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

American Urological Association (AUA) 2021 Annual Meeting: Abstract PD29-02. Presented September 11, 2021.

Marcia Frellick is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. She has previously written for the Chicago Tribune, Science News, and Nurse.com, and was an editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the St. Cloud (Minnesota) Times. Follow her on Twitter at @mfrellick.

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