Father friendly maternity services: top tips

30 June 2005

From Is there a Father in the House? by James Torr (Radcliffe Medical Press, £19.95)

  1. Simple greetings and eye contact convey a sense of welcome and go a long way – but consider if you should thank a father when he, for example, changes a nappy – it might imply it is not seen as his job.
  2. Make sure there is chair for partners to sit on in antenatal consultation and scan rooms? Are there images of fathers visible?
  3. Be careful not to over-emphasise the father’s supporter role. Dads want to help their partners, but also want recognition as parents.
  4. Help the parents talk before the baby arrives. – perhaps get them to agree beforehand which time of night each gets the most valuable sleep.
  5. Chat to the father about attending the birth to explore his expectations of parenthood.
  6. If possible give materials to parents jointly or fathers directly, rather than via the mother.
  7. Remember that if a father appears to be “hanging back” this may not mean he doesn’t want to be engaged with the baby. It could be that he expects the dialogue to be conducted with the mother. Or he may not want be seen caring for the baby in public, because that is considered feminine, even though he does much more privately.
  8. Don’t assume that a fathers group is the best place for an expectant fathers. Some may identify with the concept of “parenthood” rather than “fatherhood” and be more comfortable among mums.