The Experiences of First-Time Fathers in Perinatal Services: Present but Invisible

Healthcare (Basel). 2021 Feb 3;9(2):161. doi: 10.3390/healthcare9020161.


Fathers in the UK are becoming more involved in the care of their infants and children. A constructivist grounded theory approach was adopted to explore men's transition to fatherhood. This paper reports on one of the sub-categories derived from the data. First-time fathers with a child under two were recruited predominantly via social media. Audio-recorded semi-structured interviews were undertaken with an opening question asking men to tell their story of becoming a father. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using constructivist grounded theory methods. This paper reports one core aspect of the research findings which has particular relevance for healthcare professionals. The men in this study were highly appreciative of the care their partner and baby received but consistently reported a lack of father-specific support throughout their journey to fatherhood. This ranged from generally poor communication with healthcare professionals to being ignored and side-lined in maternity settings where they continued to be treated as visitors before, during and after the birth of their baby. Despite similar findings being reported over the last 30 to 40 years and policy directives emphasising the importance of working with fathers, change within healthcare services remains slow. Currently, fathers' needs are not being adequately met by perinatal services.

Keywords: new dads; new fathers; paternal; perinatal; service provision.