The experiences and perceptions of fathers attending the birth and immediate care of their baby

  • Merryl E. Harvey

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Fathers in the United Kingdom (UK) usually attend the birth and immediate care of their baby. They also have an increasing presence during complicated and preterm childbirth, newborn resuscitation and early neonatal unit(NNU) care. However, there is limited evidence about the effect of these experiences on them. The aim of this study was to gain an understanding of the experiences of fathers encountering these situations. The study consisted of three phases and was undertaken in one National Health Service trust in the UK. Qualitative semi-structured interviews using a phenomenological approach were undertaken with 20 first-time fathers present at the delivery, resuscitation and/or admission of their baby to the NNU. Direct observations were made of 22 normal and complicated deliveries and initial newborn care and qualitative semi-structured interviews using the critical incident approach were undertaken with 37 health care professionals (HCPs). The study generated qualitative and quantitative data that were analysed accordingly. The findings show that most fathers were involved for at least some of the time and often spontaneously initiated their involvement. Their most important need was for information. They were usually more concerned about their partner, irrespective of the baby?s need for resuscitation and NNU care. To facilitate their involvement, fathers needed guidance and support from HCPs, particularly delivery suite midwives. Most HCPs recognised the needs of fathers and ways in which they could be helped to connect with their experience. However, these needs were not always met, usually because of inadequate staffing levels, a lack of resources or a mother-centred philosophy of care. The findings suggest the service often determines the extent to which fathers are involved. It is anticipated that these findings will inform HCP education and training and the development of both policy and health education thereby enhancing the quality of care provision for fathers.
Date of Award20 May 2010
Original languageEnglish


  • Fatherhood
  • Complicated childbirth
  • Preterm childbirth
  • Neonatal resuscitation
  • Neonatal unit

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