Fatherhood Institute comments on Healthcare Commission maternity services review

30 January 2008

The Fatherhood Institute welcomes the Healthcare Commission’s review of maternity services (published in January 2008 – for more details click here). But there is an important gap in the research: how mothers rate how their partners are treated.

There is significant evidence from a wide body of international research to show that:
• mums want dads to be actively engaged by maternity services
• dads have a very strong impact on the health of the mother and baby – on the length of labour, on how the mother copes with depression, on how she stops smoking and maintains breastfeeding
• engaging effectively with fathers improves outcomes for the mother significantly, sometimes dramatically.

NHS research in 2005 showed that 60% of mothers felt that their partners had received little or no encouragement antenatally, with greater dissatisfaction in social groups D and E. Forty-five per cent of mothers said the same of support for their partner at the birth, and mothers’ satisfaction with treatment of their partners at the birth was found to correlate with their overall satisfaction of the service around the birth.

‘We cannot understand the results of the current Healthcare Commission survey without understanding how mothers rate the treatment of their partners in each maternity service,’ says Fatherhood Institute chief executive Duncan Fisher. ‘It’s time to recognize that engaging fathers effectively is a core aspect of high quality maternity care, as the NHS’s own research in 2005 concluded. It is not good enough that there is no monitoring of good practice in this area and that there are so few resources to help maternity services do this.’