Fathers do not expect maternal health services to involve them (Sweden)

fathers maternity services

Swedish fathers believe that maternal health service should focus on the health of the mother and baby.

A Swedish study asked the question: what do fathers expect of maternal health services and midwives? This may seem a strange question, given that maternal health services are not for fathers (and the study found that fathers agreed with this!) However, given the importance to health outcomes of fathers being included and informed, the question is valid when considering how to design family inclusive care. Also, if a father is struggling, for example, with depression, then this is likely to impact negatively on both maternal and newborn health – problems like this need to be identified if the care of mother and baby is to be optimised.

This issue is relevant to developing countries also. We recently reported on the changing expectations of Rwandan fathers and how these challenge maternal health services in that country. This challenge by fathers is an opportunity for maternal health – change will improve health outcomes.

The study, led by Ewa Anderrson, asked 627 fathers from around the country what they expected of maternal health services.

This is how they replied:

  • To check my baby’s health – 83% of the fathers
  • To check the woman’s health – 79%
  • To treat me with respect – 49%
  • To be informed about labour and birth – 40%
  • To be informed about pregnancy – 38%
  • To treat me in a way that makes me feel involved – 37%
  • To receive information about the time after birth – 31%
  • To receive time to talk – 22%
  • To receive support in order to cope with labour – 22%
  • To be able to participate in parent education – 14%
  • To get to know other prospective parents – 7%
  • To pay attention to my emotional well-being – 7%

The large majority (80-90%) do not expect to be the focus of any care or support themselves. Over half of the fathers don’t expect to be treated with respect and only one third expect to feel involved or be informed.

Few want to get to know other parents through maternal health services.

The big difference between Sweden and many developing countries is that there are substantial alternative means by which fathers can get information, including on-line. So reliance on a health service is less. Also there is a strong cultural norm in Sweden that fathers attend antenatal appointments – so they come even if they don’t expect any support or respect. In poorer communities, where the health of mother and baby is more dependent on family and community, maternal health services need to do more to make attendance attractive to fathers and/or close members of the family.


Andersson E, Norman A, Kanlinder C & Plantin L (2016), What do expectant fathers expect of antenatal care in Sweden? A cross-sectional study, Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare

Photo: Matt, Marie, Luke and Finn. Creative Commons.