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The BBC's Richard Hannaford reports
"A third of dads wanted to be more involved in the pregnancy from the beginning"
 real 56k

Sunday, 10 September, 2000, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
'Expectant fathers ignored'
Fathers want to be involved in caring for babies
Doctors and nurses have been urged to do more to ensure expectant fathers are able to play a greater role in the birth of their child.

A study carried out by the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has found that many fathers of new born babies feel ignored, ill-informed and unsupported by health professionals.

It also found that fathers felt inadequately informed on a wide range of vital issues.

These related both to how the birth affects mothers and how they should care for the baby.

Many fathers, particularly young dads, are poorly informed and supported

Belinda Phipps, National Childbirth Trust

Fathers said they would have liked more information on mood swings in pregnancy, what to expect during labour, and how to cope with a mother's post-natal depression.

They also felt ill-informed about how to cope with babies when they cry, and wanted more information on breast-feeding and bottle feeding.

The NCT said the lack of information and the lack of support given to fathers was worrying.

They said poor knowledge among fathers is a major handicap for families given that they are responsible for a large proportion of childcare.

While 96% of fathers said they wanted to be involved in the birth and care of their children, one in three said they had been involved too little.

More than a third said they had attended no more than one ante-natal class and over half said they were entitled to paid paternity leave after the birth.

One in three said they felt largely ignored by doctors and midwives and 10% said health professionals had avoided even making eye contact with them.

'Fathers are important'

Belinda Phipps, NCT chief executive, said doctors and nurses should do more to involve fathers.

"Fathers are important. The research shows that contrary to common belief most dads want to be involved right from the beginning.

"Yet it also demonstrates that many fathers, particularly young dads, are poorly informed and supported.

Many fathers feel pushed out and unwelcome when they get involved, damaging families and children

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"Those responsible for helping new parents should help fathers to be fully involved in pregnancy, birth and baby care."

Tom Beardshaw of Fathers Direct, a support group for fathers, said their lack of input could damage families.

"Fathers are saying they want to care for their children, but many feel pushed out and unwelcome when they get involved, damaging families and children."

He added: "Midwives and other health professionals do a fantastic job, but they need to work more effectively with fathers."

The two groups have called for the government to take steps to ensure new dads can be given time off work to attend at least three ante-natal classes.

They suggested that midwives and other health professionals should work more flexible hours to enable fathers to take part in ante-natal activities outside working hours.

They also called for fathers to be allowed to stay overnight in hospital after the birth and to be given two weeks' statutory paid leave.


The study examined the experiences of 800 fathers of new born children over a four year period.

A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the study.

"Midwives do the best job they can, under difficult pressure, to support parents," she said.

"But we welcome this study. It is constructive and suggests ways of helping parents.

"Anything that can help midwives to help parents more we welcome."

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10 Sep 99 | Health
New fathers get advice
17 Jan 00 | Health
'Keep men out of delivery room'
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