Fathers of pre-term infants in intensive care use social media sites to get information and seek support from other fathers.
A US study, led by Dr Hyun Nam Kim at the University of Tennessee College of Nursing (Knoxville, USA), analysed 131 posts by fathers on 29 websites (Facebook, forums, blogs).
They found that fathers:
- ask questions
- offer suggestions, e.g “listen to other fathers”
- share information they have found
- share personal information
“I too am a police officer and father of a preemie. I understand what you are feeling. We are not used to not being in control of a situation and/or putting that control in someone else’s hands. I understand your/our unique feelings in trying to cope with these two conflicting roles.”
- offer emotional support
“Hello my fellow brother in blue. Our journey is now 7 1 /2 years long and every day is a challenge, but seeing her smile and hearing “Daddy! I love you!” makes the challenges all worth it. I hope all is going well and know that you will be experiencing a roller coaster ride. Please let me know if you ever want to talk.”
What fathers discuss
The research team identified 7 themes.
- Health of the baby
- Healthcare costs
- Pressure of work and earning
“I hate the fact that I get to see my baby 1 hr a day now as I work 8 am-8 pm. Just understand that even though you have a little one in the NICU, it does not mean that the mortgage company or credit company would care.”
- Lack of social support for fathers
“I think that one thing I could have used was communication with other dads who had been through the NICU experience. The moms were able to bond in the pumping room but I had no place to meet or talk with other dads that had gone through what I was expecting.”
“The whole preemie thing is terrifying. Everybody around the situation is focused on mom/baby. Dads are left to worry about everything and everyone. As a dad, you may feel lonely. Hopefully, you will get some support by talking to people in here.”
“Because of our choice to speak up, [infant’s name] is receiving the support he so desperately needs. Feeling empowered and speaking up to advocate for your child is such an important aspect of helping your child whether it’s in the NICU or after you come home.”
- Difficulty of having to be the strong one
“I don’t want to be weak in front of my wife. I don’t think she knows how bad I am hurting right now.”
“We guys like to fix things and this is something that cannot be fixed and there’s got to be some frustration about that. I wouldn’t want my wife asking me how I feel.”
“Well, it finally happened to me, my wife has gotten me interested in talking. It has been a long interesting road for me. I do not have the strength of my wife nor the ability to reach out and bare my soul.”
Social media based mHealth tool proposed
The researchers recommend an on-line social media based mHealth solution targeted at fathres, geared towards information and peer support.
Kim HN, Wyatt TH, Li X & Gaylord M (2016), Use of Social Media by Fathers of Premature Infants, Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing 30.4
Photo: Sascha Kohlmann. Creative Commons.