Aim: This paper is a report of a study to explore the needs of first-time fathers in relation to the care, support and education provided by healthcare professionals during the antenatal period, particularly in relation to preparing them for the transition to fatherhood.
Background: Pregnancy and transition to parenthood are major developmental periods within families throughout the world. Previous research suggests that fathers in many different countries feel unprepared for parenthood.
Methods: Purposive sampling was used to recruit 20 partners of primiparous women from two healthcare provider organizations in South-West England between December 2005 and July 2006. Recruitment took place at about 28 weeks gestation. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken at home in the last trimester of pregnancy and 3-4 months postpartum. Content analysis of the interview data was undertaken.
Findings: Several common themes emerged from both the ante- and postnatal data, including lack of support mechanisms, involvement in antenatal provision and the need for more information given in the antenatal period on parenting, baby care and relationships.
Conclusions: Adequately preparing new fathers for parenthood in advance of the birth of their baby is important, and healthcare professionals can contribute to this by involving and supporting new fathers. Further study is needed to explore the role of fathers in antenatal education and the types of interventions that are effective in improving their early experiences of parenthood. The study needs to be repeated with fathers from black and ethnic minority groups.