As we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s spotlight maternal health too

by Rep. Aaron Pilkington ([email protected]) 46 views 

Father’s Day is an opportunity to honor the role men play in supporting and caring for their families. It is a reminder to cherish the values that we hold dear in Arkansas: family, faith, and community.

As a father of three boys, I am grateful for the blessing of being able to raise a family with my incredible wife, to share in the lives of families in my community, and to have the opportunity to make a difference in the way we take care of moms through my work as a state representative.

While Father’s Day is a special time to reflect on the memories with our children and tell our best “dad jokes,” it’s also an opportunity to highlight the important role dads, and men in general, must play in supporting the maternal health of our wives, daughters, sisters and friends through pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.

When we think about maternal health, we often focus on medical care, nutrition and prenatal visits. While these are undeniably important, the emotional and practical support provided by fathers is equally vital. New dads, experienced dads, and granddads for that matter significantly contribute to the health and happiness of their partners and the family unit in numerous ways. Actively participating in infant and toddler care, picking up the slack to help make the household run, taking the initiative in household chores, and providing unwavering emotional support are just a few of the ways dads can make a positive impact.

Emotional support is a critical aspect in maternal health and an issue I am passionate about. Pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period are times of immense emotional upheaval. Fathers who provide a listening ear, offer encouragement, show patience and stand as steadfast pillars of support help create a secure and loving atmosphere. This emotional foundation provides a bedrock for mothers to feel confident and capable in their new roles.

Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville.

Maternal health is not just a women’s issue, but a family issue. We know that healthy moms lead to healthier babies, families, and communities and it is time to step up and take charge as our state has the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. It is our community’s responsibility to work together to improve maternal health for Arkansans, and as a pro-life state, this is an issue we need to fix.

I applaud our state’s commitment to finding solutions and pursuing initiatives that improve maternal health here in Arkansas and am encouraged by groups like Arkansans for Improving Maternal Health (AIM) that are raising awareness around this very important issue.

As a father, health clinic administrator, and proud representative of the 45th district, I have focused much of my career on improving maternal health and it is part of my mission to continue to make Arkansas a better place to have babies and raise a family.

I am proud to have sponsored and passed legislation that provides coverage and reimbursement for new mothers to get screened for depression to ensure moms get the care they need to have a healthy postpartum period, opened Arkansas’ first milk bank with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences to provide a ready supply of donor milk for infants in the NICU, and work to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage.

As we celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, let’s remember that maternal health is a family issue, and together, we can make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

Editor’s note: State Rep. Aaron Pilkington, R-Knoxville, represents House District 45, which includes portions of Johnson and Pope counties. He is a member of the House Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee and earned his master’s degree in healthcare administration from UAMS. The opinions expressed are those of the author.