Engaging dads, supporting women
Of course, the woman will always be our primary focus, but by engaging partners in appointments and during labour and birth, we can help to extend that circle of support. That’s why the RCM has been working with charity the Fatherhood Institute to develop some hints and advice to include fathers and other non-birthing parents effectively during the perinatal period.
A 2018 survey by the Fatherhood Institute found that 61.3% of fathers reported being well informed during the intrapartum period. They said that maternity staff often told them about what was happening during the birth of their baby, including interventions and emergencies. Additionally, in a survey of midwives and maternity staff, 84% of respondents said fathers need the most support during the intrapartum period. It's clear from these results that there is still room for maternity services to support fathers during the perinatal period.
Well-supported fathers can have a positive impact on women’s perinatal experiences and outcomes (Burgess & Goldman, 2018). Most fathers already attend maternity services, including antenatal appointments, scans, and antenatal classes. And long gone are the days when dads paced the corridors while their partners were in labour! Being present through these milestones, and before, during and after their babies’ births create opportunities for midwives to talk to fathers and provide further support.
The NMC (2019) states that ‘midwives have a unique role in engaging with women, their partners and families during the perinatal period’. Nonetheless, some of the challenges fathers’ experience are beyond the scope of maternity services. However, by making small changes in services and practice, midwives and MSWs can help men navigate their journeys into fatherhood more successfully and make it a friendly, helpful and meaningful experience.
The Engaging Dads toolkit also has resources for fathers from a range of diverse groups. Some of these are outlined in our RCM pocket guide which can be found here.