A commentary piece in the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health makes the case for better preparation of fathers who attend a birth. The authors make four recommendations:
- “timely antenatal education” about presence at the birth to allow couples to consider the issue carefully
- appropriate support during the birth, particularly if there are difficulties
- understanding of health professionals and doulas of the importance of the partner’s understanding
- post-birth support for couples if the birth was traumatic.
The authors quote the earlier study by Mary Steen et al, Not-patient and not-visitor: a metasynthesis fathers’ encounters with pregnancy, birth and maternity care (2012).
The authors review the potential benefits and risks of fathers attending the birth. Benefits include improved father-child attachment, reduced anxiety and stress, increased maternal satisfaction, positive attitudes towards motherhood, increased love and respect for the woman giving birth, and a stronger couple relationship. The baby can benefit from the connection with both parents from the moment of birth.
Risks include an adverse reaction to witnessing invasive medical procedures, particularly if the birth is traumatic; feeling vulnerable, out of place and unsupported in the birthing room; witnessing the woman’s instinctive reactions during childbirth, which can be strong and include being annoyed by their partner. These reactions risk distracting the woman from her own focus on the birth and coping with the pain.
The authors discuss the social drivers for attendance of partners at the birth. Recognising that many women want their partner at the birth and that many partners want to be supportive, they sound a note of caution about the pressure of social expectations, making partners feel obliged to attend and women obliged to include them.
Khajehei M, Hajizadeh N & Behroozpour E (2020), Fathers in the birth room: Theoretical expectations and real-life experiences, Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health
Header photo: Sharon Mollerus. Creative Commons.