In recent years, fathers' experiences during childbirth have attracted much research and policy interest. However, little of this work has been grounded in the first-hand accounts of men and there is a lack of theory-based research to help understand men's thoughts and practices around childbirth. This paper is based on qualitative research undertaken with first-time fathers and healthcare professionals. It draws on Connell's (1995) conceptualisation of hegemonic masculinity to explore how men construct masculine identities within the context of pregnancy and childbirth and also how healthcare professionals construct masculinity. The paper demonstrates the ways in which men can find themselves marginalised within the context of pregnancy and childbirth, but are still able to draw on identifiable markers of masculine practice which enable them to enact a masculine form congruent with dominant masculinity. It also illustrates how healthcare professionals' constructions of masculinity enable them to predict how men will behave and allow them to position men in ways that involve minimum disruption to their own practice. The paper also highlights how men's marginal status is embedded in the dynamics of the social structure, which produce and reproduce dominant masculine identities within the context of childbirth.
© 2011 The Authors. Sociology of Health & Illness © 2011 Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.