The barriers to fathers’ participation in maternal health in Iran

Iran fathers

A study in Iran, involving 45 interviews with parents and professionals, set out to identify barriers to men’s participation in maternal healthcare during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Six barriers were identified, though a generational shift was noted, with more younger men being actively involved.

  • Cultural norms
    • Patriarchal division of labour, with care regarded as an activity for women in families.
    • Social disapproval of men’s participation.
    • Women’s beliefs that care is their responsibility.
    • Families do not teach men about pregnancy and childbirth.
    • The media do not portray men in caring roles.
  • Lack of knowledge of men
    • Lack of awareness by men about their influence on maternal health.
    • Lack of previous experience.
  • Couple communication difficulties keeping fathers apart
  • Health centres not welcoming of fathers
    • Inappropriate physical space, including non-private delivery rooms.
    • Prohibition of men’s presence in examination rooms and prenatal clinics.
    • Disapproval of men’s presence by some health professionals.
  • Lack of Government policy, leading to health service practice being defined on the basis of personal opinions of senior managers
  • Work pressures on fathers
    • Long working hours, sometimes longer than previously, to earn more to pay for the pregnancy.
    • Lack of leave entitlements.
    • Fear of career detriment if work compromised.

The researchers recommend five changes for Iran:

  • Provide a couple session at the beginning of pregnancy care.
  • Educate health personnel about how to engage effectively with fathers.
  • Change the physical space in hospitals to allow more engagement by fathers.
  • Make public requests for better engagement with fathers, in order to influence future policy.
  • Subsidise pregnancy costs so that lower-income families have the same opportunities.

The 45 interviewees were 12 recently pregnant women, 6 husbands of these women, 19 healthcare providers, 3 health managers and 5 policy makers from the Ministry of Health. They were asked, “What are the participation barriers for men in antenatal and postpartum care?” Of the 45 interviewed, 9 were men.


Firouzan V, Noroozi M, Farajzadegan Z & Mirghafourvand M (2019), Barriers to men’s participation in perinatal care: A qualitative study, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 19

Photo: Carsten ten Brink. Creative Commons.