A new study has looked at fathers’ experiences of a particular life-threatening heart condition for mothers, peripartum cardiomyopathy (PPCM). This affects some women towards the end of pregnancy or in the months after.
The researchers in Sweden interviewed 14 fathers whose partners had been affected by PPCM. They found that the fathers wanted adequate information, enabling them to be appropriately responsive to their partner’s distress and to plan for the future. Information afforded one way of recovering some sense of security and control. Fathers complained about insufficient, unclear and unintelligible information.
Lack of space to accommodate fathers in health facilities was raised as a problem by some fathers, who described this as unwelcoming and uncomforting. Fathers who described receiving a separate room described it as a comfort amid chaos.
A majority of the fathers reported feeling left out – “sidelined”, “ignored”, “invisible” and “pushed aside”. Some were required to bring their own food to the hospital.
In contrast, other fathers reported warmly the experience of empathy and sensitivity from professionals.
The fathers in the study expressed some ambivalence about seeking help, feeling that priority should be given to caring for their baby and their partner rather than themselves.
The researchers conclude:
“It is time now to ‘look outside the box’ to acknowledge the father’s need for well-being and reinforce his efforts, because mothers rely on their partner for strength and support in such a critical condition. It is also important for professionals to be more effective care-givers from the gender equality perspective, and to notice both parents.”
Patel H, Berg M, Begley C & Schaufelberger M (2018), Fathers’ experiences of care when their partners suffer from peripartum cardiomyopathy: A qualitative interview study, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 18
Patel H, Begley C, Prembert A & Schaufelberger M (2019), Fathers’ reactions over their partner’s diagnosis of peripartum cardiomyopathy: A qualitative interview study, Midwifery 71
Photo: Jim Champion. Creative Commons.