A qualitative study in Sweden asked 15 fathers about their experience of antenatal education and asked them for suggestions about how to improve the preparation for having a baby. Petra Pålsson at Lund University led a small team of researchers. They interviewed first-time fathers one-month after the birth of their babies.
Fathers made three key recommendations that can assist all those planning and improving father inclusive antenatal preparation.
Fathers want practical knowledge
The fathers said they wanted “how-to” information about baby care (e.g. sleeping, washing), knowing what to do when a baby is ill and how to support breastfeeding (which they found to be more challenging than expected).
They also wanted to know more about how to sustain the couple relationship changes post-birth, how to understand unpredictable emotional reactions after the birth on the part of both parents, and how to cope with sleeplessness. They wanted to understand how to respond to postnatal depression.
Fathers feel the need for some planning
Key issues that could benefit from planning were how to support the mother, how to ensure the father-baby relationship can develop, how to manage housework and how to maintain an equal relationship (not becoming just a “helper”).
Planning would also be useful around getting support in case things feel out of control – when there are sudden unexpected problems. This could be a plan for getting help from third parties as well as thinking about how to keep good communication between mother and father.
How antenatal education should be delivered
There was a variety of opinion on how best antenatal education should be delivered, for example group sessions for couples and men only sessions run by a father. Different fathers like different things.
One suggestion was at least one session shortly after the birth.
The fathers described the vast range of material on the Internet. They wanted midwives to provide signposting to good sources of information and advice.
Pålsson P, Persson EK, Ekelin M, Hallström IK & Kvist LJ, First-time fathers experiences of their prenatal preparation in relation to challenges met in the early parenthood period: implications for early parenthood preparation, Midwifery
Photo: Jan Videren. Creative Commons.