Most fathers now attend the birth of their baby
Maternity services across the UK are disadvantaging children from birth by "shutting out" their fathers, a think tank has warned.
The Fatherhood Institute said the benefits of the father's active involvement from birth were profound.
New parents should be allowed to stay together overnight in hospital and midwives should have more training on including fathers, they recommended.
But the NCT said some of the issues raised were also important for mothers.
In a report published on Monday the Institute said in focusing almost entirely on mothers, most maternity units tend to overlook fathers.
There are no clear guidelines and no formal requirement for maternity services to recognise fathers-to-be and ensure they are involved in the birth and early days of their baby's life, the report said.
Yet fathers' behaviour and experiences before, during can have a powerful impact on mothers and children.
And fathers who are highly involved with their babies from the start are more likely to remain so for life and both infant and mother tend to do well in the weeks and months after birth, the Institute said.
While 86% of fathers now attend the birth of their child, the report found that many still feel excluded at the birth and can be literally shut out when visiting time is over.
Their research also showed many new dads feel they have no clear role and are offered very little information.
The Institute wants to see a change in birth registration practice so that both parents sign the birth certificate.
And for maternity services to allow and encourage fathers to be present for doctor's ward round and when support is given on baby care skills.
A co-ordinated government programme is needed to give targeted antenatal support to young mothers and vulnerable fathers, the report added.
Fatherhood Institute chief executive Duncan Fisher said: "Research clearly shows that the positive involvement of fathers right from the start is crucial; and that when professionals engage with fathers, particularly young or otherwise vulnerable dads, this makes a huge difference to mother and baby.
"What actually happens now is that while the mother's responsibilities are reinforced at every opportunity, the first message many fathers get after the birth is 'leave this place now'.
"Currently, we don't ask questions if a father fails to show for the antenatal appointment or doesn't sign the birth certificate.
"If things are going to change, we have got to start sending both mums and dads some very different signals."
Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust said both mothers and fathers needed help to settle into their new roles as parents to their new baby.
"The recommendations in this report focus primarily on fathers however many of the issues they raise are just as relevant for mothers.
"Maternity services do not currently fully meet the needs of all parents and particularly those with additional needs as a result of their own specific circumstances.
"Separating services based on gender may not be the most useful way to serve the needs of all parents."