Dads’ FAQs: Antenatal support for dads

23 October 2012


Questions we have been asked include:

‘Student dad-to-be, wants to know where he can learn about putting on nappies’

‘My pregnant girlfriend and I have broken up. I am worried about her state of mind’

‘My husband has heard about fatherhood classes in America where the men talk to each other about their own fathers and what type of fathers they hope to be. He would like to attend something similar here’


Antenatal scans

A great key way to make clear – to yourself and others – that you intend to be a fully involved, hands-on father, is to make sure you go along to the hospital for the antenatal scans. In doing so are supporting your child’s mother, can ask any questions about the baby’s progress, and can start to build a confident, constructive relationship with the maternity staff whose job it is to help you and your child’s mother through the transition to parenthood.

Many fathers find that going along to the scans helps them get their head around the fact that a baby is on its way. Seeing the foetus on the ultrasound screen, even if it looks faint and blurry, makes the whole thing feel more real. Being there means you can share the burden if the scans find possible abnormalities, and can hear first-hand any advice from the health professionals. Informed, involved fathers are good for mothers, babies – and employers: you’re less likely to develop stress, and more likely to adjust well to parenthood.

Unfortunately you, unlike your child’s mother, have no legal right to time off work to attend antenatal scans (see more on the Government’s website). More enlightened employers may allow you some extra time off, or at least let you attend the appointment and make the time up later. If you work for a dinosaur, or are self-employed, bite the bullet and take the time as holiday. Remember, plenty of men on their death-beds regret not being a more hands-on dad…few if any wish they’d spent more time working.


Antenatal classes

Later in the pregnancy you’ll both want to attend antenatal classes, usually organised by the local midwives or your GP. Such courses should be offered to you and your child’s mother as part of the standard package of NHS support. In many cases sessions are offered on Saturdays, so you may be able to attend outside working hours. Private classes are available through various providers – see below for more details.

The quality of classes varies, and it’s worth noting that although some classes are delivered well to dads as well as mums, the providers can sometimes peddle unhelpful and sexist stereotypes (in a joking manner or otherwise) along the lines that men are ham-fisted, more interested in beer than babies, less ‘natural’ at parenting, incapable of multi-tasking, etc. The more fathers object to this, the more providers are likely to get the message. If you experience a real ‘horror story’, please tell us about it – such evidence helps us lobby for more father-inclusive services, with those who commission and provide classes. We will anonymise any information you provide unless you tell us otherwise. Please email us, including your name, a brief outline of what happened, and your daytime telephone number.


Other useful support

The NHS has an information email that either parent can sign up for if you are expecting a baby or have a child under for weeks old. It also has a page for dads that addresses some of the experiences you may have while your partner is pregnant and when your baby is born.

If you are a young father, it’s worth asking about local Teenage Pregnancy services, which may, if you are very lucky, offer you tailored support (you don’t need to be a teenager yourself – such services may be available if you’re aged 16-25, or if the mother of your child is herself a teenager). Contact your local authority (for a list of local authority contact details, search on the Government’s website) and/or contact your nearest Brook advisory centre.

Children’s Centres provide local services for the mums and dads of babies and young children (including young parents). Contact your local authority to find out about Children’s Centre services in your area. There may not be courses aimed specifically at fathers, but Children’s Centres are supposed to offer services for ALL parents, including dads – so if they look blankly at you, that’s THEIR mistake, not yours! Search for contact details for your local authority here.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is the UK’s biggest national independent provider of antenatal support. Call 0844 243 6000 or visit the NCT website to check out classes in your area. Sometimes NCT-sponsored dads’ workshops or courses are run locally. If there isn’t one, think about setting one up yourself: both the NCT Head Office and NCT local branches may well be happy to help. Although the NCT is a charity, courses are charged for to cover running costs. Fees differ depending on the duration of the course and its location. Classes cater for five to seven couples at a time and attendees are placed with those who are expecting around the same time and who live locally, which can be a source of future support.

Family Lives (FREE telephone helpline 0808 800 2222 & textphone 0800 783 6783) run telephone and face-to-face groups for new and expectant parents: you can also email them or call via Skype. Find out more on their website.

To get a sense of what a father-inclusive maternity service looks like, check out the Royal College of Midwives/Fatherhood Institute guide Reaching Out: Involving Fathers in Maternity Care. If you feel the service you’ve received is not up to scratch, please send us an email  including your name, a brief outline of what happened, and your daytime telephone number. Such evidence helps us lobby for more father-inclusive services. We will anonymise any information you provide unless you tell us otherwise.


Fatherhood Institute Training

Hit the Ground Crawling is our pioneering antenatal programme for dads, where dads-to-be get to quiz new dads and practice hands-on caring with young babies. It’s currently only available in a few areas, where local authorities have commissioned us to train their staff to run it. Find out more here. If it’s not available in your area and you’d like it to be, why not suggest it to your midwife, health visitor and/or Children’s Centre manager? Send them a link to this page or give them our phone number 0845 634 1328.


If your baby has a problem

Some fathers-to-be face particularly difficult situations if an anomaly is diagnosed in their unborn child. Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) is a national charity that supports both parents through the entire antenatal screening process. ARC is non-directive and aims to help parents come to the most appropriate decision at a painful time. It provides specific help for fathers as well as other family members. You can find out more on the ARC website or phone the helpline on 0845 077 2290 (or 0207 713 7356 from a mobile phone).


Find links to other Dads’ FAQs articles here.



Tags: , , , , , ,