Optimum family centred care

Midwives invest in the future through having fathers more integrated in antenatal care.

The Lead Maternity Carer model provides continuity of midwifery care in New Zealand through pregnancy and birth. This provides an opportunity for midwives to interact with partners, usually male, as well as with the pregnant women. Early positive bonding of fathers with their children is known to have positive outcomes for the children.

 In 2015 Tricia Thompson interviewed 10 first time fathers whose partners were in their last trimester of pregnancy. The men felt protective of their partners but were otherwise very future-focussed, looking forward to doing things with a child, rather than a baby. They generally did not have a good understanding of the scope of the midwife's role.

Tricia recently reviewed her data through the lens of optimising family-centred care during pregnancy. There are several ways that midwives can contribute to family-centred care:

  1. Make the father welcome at an antenatal visit. Tricia recommends looking at him, using his name, talking with him.
  2. Understand that the baby may not seem very real to men until about half way through the pregnancy, so they are not ready for too much information too early. Midwives can dripfeed titbits of information gradually to increase involvement over time, to avoid overloading them. Talking about the baby's abilities and capabilities, eg. when the baby can hear, helps make the pregnancy real for them. 
  3. Remember that men are not the same as women and will have a different approach to their partner's pregnancy. Midwives can help men find practical things that they can do to demonstrate their care for their partner, for example rubbing her back or feet. 

Dads may not follow apps or seek out information. It would be good to have an app designed for dads about a baby's development.

Tricia's findings about ways in which men can be included effectively are still highly relevant, not just in New Zealand but in many countries where having fathers present in antenatal care appointments and at births is still very new.

June 2023