Partner Presence during Labor and Birth: Fathers Lived Experiences

Thursday, 16 July 2009: 1:45 PM

Mary Reid Nichols, PhD, RN, FNP
Family Nursing Department, Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, Hyden, KY

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to identify positive childbirth experiences perceived by fathers during labor and birth.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to identify less than optimal paternal perceptions of labor and birth described by fathers.

Purpose: Further evidence is needed for policy development regarding the importance of partner support during labor and delivery to optimize overall adjustment to parenthood. The primary purpose of the current study was to describe father’s perceptions of their experiences during labor and delivery and to better understand their own needs while they support their partner’s during childbirth. It was hypothesized that father presence during childbirth will have a positive impact on a mother’s experience and as a result have an overall positive effect on the transition to parenthood. Methods: The qualitative data were part of a larger longitudinal, mixed methods study about adjustment to parenthood in 146 couples who were recruited during the last trimester of pregnancy in prenatal care settings. Eligible subjects provided informed consent and agreed to complete both prenatal questionnaires and again at 6-8 weeks after birth. The main focus of the larger study was to describe prenatal variables (demographics, marital satisfaction, prenatal attachment), intrapartal variables (childbirth satisfaction, paternal childbirth involvement) and postpartum variables (parenting sense of competence, ease of transition to parenthood) as well as the perceptions and experiences of childbirth in the women and men. Quantitative data were analyzed to determine relationships among prenatal, intrapartal and postpartum variables. The qualitative data were examined for themes using content analysis procedures. Results: The results supported Nichols’ (1992) Adjustment to New Parenthood Model where prenatal, intrapartal, and postpartum variables were positively correlated and resulted in positive adjustment to parenthood. Additionally, men provided important evidence about a father’s positive and negative experiences surrounding the birth of his child. Conclusion: The findings further support and expand previous findings where fathers are positive about presence during childbirth yet may also feel frustrated and unprepared to be helpful to their partner especially when there is distress or discomfort for the woman during labor.