Dad’s Decision – International Fathers Mental Health Day. Written by Dr Laura Goodwin (@laurakgoodwin), Dr Albert Farre, and Professor Sara Kenyon
Dad’s decision? Choosing where your baby is born
Written by Dr Laura Goodwin (@laurakgoodwin), Dr Albert Farre, and Professor Sara Kenyon
Gone are the days where men would be sat in the waiting room with a cigar in one hand and a whiskey in the other, waiting for the cry of “it’s a boy/girl” before being invited in to meet the new arrival. Instead, we have experienced a slow but steady culture shift towards dads having an active role throughout pregnancy, labour, birth, and beyond.
The need to involve expectant fathers in all aspects of maternity care is becoming better recognised in healthcare practice, and a recent collaborative piece from The Royal College of Midwives, The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, and the Fatherhood Institute, acknowledges that “there is substantial evidence of the health and wellbeing benefits that result from fathers being involved in their partner’s maternity care” .
However research in the UK has highlighted that involving fathers in all aspects of maternity care is often challenging due to factors such as a lack of support from healthcare practitioners and government policies which give men limited time off work to attend appointments or spend time with their babies after they are born [2, 3].
Even in Sweden (considered one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, with policies to prove it) research suggests that dads-to-be are still not receiving the support they want and need to be involved in their journey to fatherhood .
Choice of “birth setting” for low-risk pregnancies (i.e. deciding whether your baby is born at home, birth centre/midwife-led unit or delivery suite) is one of the key decisions made during maternity care, and is an important time for expectant dads to be involved.
Data from a range of recent studies by the CLAHRC West Midlands Maternity team, however, suggest that dads-to-be may have different information needs and priorities compared to their partners when it comes to choosing where their baby is born. Not catering to these different needs may mean that couples end up disagreeing, or that men may be seen as “blocking” a particular choice that they do not feel comfortable with.
To tackle this issue, we (a team of researchers at the University of Birmingham) are looking for dads and dads-to-be in the local area to take part in study which aims to better understand how they feel about place of birth and their role in this decision for low-risk pregnancies. Questions will include things like “did your midwife talk to you and/or your partner about the different options available?”, and “who was involved in the decision about where your baby will be born?”.
Through this research, we hope to identify any areas where additional information or support may be required when speaking to expectant fathers about birth setting.
If you live in Birmingham, and your partner has a low-risk pregnancy, please contact Albert Farre (A.Farre@bham.ac.uk) for more information.
- Royal College of Midwives. Reaching out: Involving Fathers in Maternity Care. London: RCM 2011. https://www.rcm.org.uk/sites/default/files/Father’s%20Guides%20A4_3_0.pdf
- Ives J. Men, maternity and moral residue: negotiating the moral demands of the transition to first time fatherhood. Sociol Health Illn 2014;36:1003–19. doi:10.1111/1467-9566.12138
- Machin AJ. Mind the Gap: The expectation and reality of involved fatherhood. Fathering 2015;13:36–59. doi:10.3149/fth.1301.36
- Wells MB. Literature review shows that fathers are still not receiving the support they want and need from Swedish child health professionals. Acta Paediatr 2016;105:1014–23. doi:10.1111/apa.13501