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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 23-31

Exploration of first-time fathers' experiences during the child's first year


Department of OBG Nursing, The Oxford College of Nursing, The Oxford Educational Institutions, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

Date of Web Publication21-Jan-2016

Correspondence Address:
Thilagavathy Ganapathy
#305, Ganesh Nivas, VI Cross, Arekare, Mico-Layout, Bengaluru - 560 076, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0975-9727.174608

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  Abstract 

Background: The paternal postpartum period is a tremendous transitional time for first-time fathers and so, their unique experiences should be considered. Aim: To explore new fathers' experiences during the child's first year and the factors associated with their experiences. Setting and Design: A descriptive exploratory research conducted among n = 149 new fathers working in private companies in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India recruited by purposive sampling during their first year of paternal postpartum period. Materials and Methods: An individual interview using a four-point structured rating scale consisting of 50 items measuring their experiences during the first year of paternal postpartum period was used to collect data. Statistical Analysis: All statistical analyses were performed by the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) 17 version. An alpha less than 0.05 was considered to be significant in all analyses. Results: The results revealed that the vast majority of the first-time fathers (61.34%) had positive postpartum experiences as compared to 38.66% who reported negative fatherhood experiences. The key concepts related to their experiences were emotional upheaval, changes in lifestyle, pleasant and rejuvenating fatherhood experiences, relationship difficulties with partners, parents, friends, lack of intimacy with spouse, feelings of social isolation, lack of leisure activities and hobbies, difficulties in balancing career and family, ongoing physical problems, and financial constraints. There was no association of their postpartum paternal experiences with sociodemographic factors. Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest the need for realigning health services that have traditionally focused on mothers and children to father friendly services that respect fathers' strengths, experiences, knowledge, relationship, empowerment, and well-being to promote lasting benefits for fathers and their families.

Keywords: Experiences, first-time father, postpartum


How to cite this article:
Ganapathy T. Exploration of first-time fathers' experiences during the child's first year. Muller J Med Sci Res 2016;7:23-31

How to cite this URL:
Ganapathy T. Exploration of first-time fathers' experiences during the child's first year. Muller J Med Sci Res [serial online] 2016 [cited 2019 Oct 16];7:23-31. Available from: http://www.mjmsr.net/text.asp?2016/7/1/23/174608


  Introduction Top


Fatherhood in the 21 st century is tougher than ever, as fathers are increasingly expected to take a greater share in the responsibility of household chores and parenting roles as well as working fulltime than their own fathers did. [1],[2] The postpartum paternal period is a tremendous transitional time for new fathers and a time when adjustments need to be made on physiological, psychological, and social levels. [3] New fathers genuinely struggle with the need to balance their own transition to fatherhood and that of their partner. They may experience a tension between needing to be the breadwinner and also wanting to be involved in childcare, [2] which may affect marital and child relationships as well as their health status and feelings that are sometimes overlooked and may cause conflict with their other roles. [3] A new father may be apprehensive about finances, changes in the relationship with his partner, increased responsibilities, and feelings about himself [1] and still want and expect some affection and attention for himself as well as a reasonably active social life and some freedom to pursue his own interests. [4]

Though men and women become parents at the same time, they do not necessarily become parents in the same way. [4],[5] Although men's passage to parenthood is comparatively smooth without much physical and emotional changes that new mothers undergo, it is not free of turbulence. [6] It may take time for fathers to adapt to their new role and they may need access to support and advice. [4] They should be encouraged to talk to their partner or to a professional about what is it that is worrying them. By expressing their anxieties, new fathers are more likely to get a clearer perspective and the support they need to feel better as keeping silent about their feelings can actually increase stress. [7]

Fatherhood is a benchmark for masculinity, characterized by a patriarchal array of assumptions, ideals, expectations, stereotypes, and an imposition that dictates the dynamics of that role. [8] In reality, fatherhood involves sleepless nights, anxiety, stress, feelings of being overwhelmed, and difficulties in coping. Due to fear of social repercussions, they are unable to express and validate their feelings and needs within supportive, accepting, and nonjudgmental interrelationships and cultural contexts. [3],[7] They feel trapped in their experiences as a result of being unable to express themselves and strive to present themselves according to social and cultural expectations. Out of shame, perceived stigma, and the fear of being deemed as unfit fathers, they are hesitant to disclose their true feelings; [9] they hide their feelings and experiences but often secretly hope that someone will notice and help them. [6]

In reproductive health research, there is a wealth of evidence and consensus of experts about maternal health and its impact on children. There is very limited knowledge on new fathers' experiences during the child's first year, yet there is evidence that paternal well-being has a potential impact on partners, children from infancy to adolescence, and the fathers themselves. [8],[9] Despite such suggestions, paternal postpartum care is often given a low priority in research and clinical practice. [7],[9] The aim of postpartum care is not only to ensure the health of mothers and babies but also to help first-time fathers cope with the new situation, to provide support during these difficult adjustment periods, and to ensure that new fathers feel confident in caring for their babies. Unfortunately, researchers and practitioners have made limited progress in the attempt to address the explicit and unspoken needs of many new fathers in the paternal postpartum period; so it is not surprising that there is a long list of questions yet to be addressed. It is wise for reproductive health care professionals to recognize the new fathers' uncertainty about their fathering abilities, the unique and possibly stressful experiences of new fatherhood, and be careful not to deride their initial efforts and to treat them as valuable partners to their spouses and not as their assistants in their new joint venture of parenthood.

Given that first-time fathers are presumably vulnerable for negative paternal postpartum experiences and it may have possible effect on the well-being of fathers and families, a research had been undertaken to explore first-time fathers' experiences during the first year of postpartum period. At a time of shifting social mores and increasing expectation of the father's involvement in direct child care, child and family services have a definite role to play in supporting first-time fathers to help them address shortcomings in skills, knowledge, and personal functioning. Such an understanding may assist health professionals in the early identification of problems and subsequent interventions that may decrease the risk of negative outcomes.


  Materials and Methods Top


Respondents

A descriptive exploratory research was conducted among n = 149 first-time fathers who were in the first year of postpartum period and working in private firms/companies located in Bannerghatta MICO layout, Bangalore, South Karnataka, India. They access health care services through private secondary and tertiary health care hospitals, clinics, and primary health care settings. Purposive sampling was used to recruit first-time fathers whose infants were healthy, born after 37 weeks of gestation, with a birth weight of at least 2,500 g, experienced no complications during delivery, with no risk factors complicating the infancy period, and severe illness or abnormalities. Fathers with more than one child were excluded from this study based on the assumption that they would most likely have different experiences than first-time fathers. Data were collected between the months of January 2014 and December 2014.

Ethical considerations

The study was conducted in compliance with the ethical principles of the Declaration of Helsinki. Ethical approval was obtained from the institutional ethical review committee and permission to conduct the study was obtained from the managing supervisors of the private companies. The participation was voluntary and written informed consent was obtained from all respondents prior to the interviews. To ensure anonymity, a coding number was assigned to each consent form and the interview data sheet in the right top corner, starting from 001 coding number. Respondent confidentiality during the research process and in the reporting of findings was thoroughly discussed. Respondents were informed that if they wanted to withdraw from the study, they could do so at any time and their respective data sheets would be destroyed.

Measures

To explore the experience of first-time fathers during the child's first year, a four-point interview rating was developed by the researcher. Important concepts and items to represent the concepts were identified through the literature review, discussion with midwives, psychologists, fathers. and mothers. Concepts related to rejuvenation, emotional upheaval, lifestyle changes, social isolation, lack of time, relationship difficulties, balancing career and family, physical problems, and financial adjustments were generated. The rating scale consisted of 59 items, presented as statements with respondents' responses being rated on a four-point Likert scale ("not at all" = 1, "to some extent" = 2, "lot more" = 3, and"very much so" = 4). The baseline data included sociodemographic factors including age, education, income, involvement in pregnancy, labor, and postnatal care, along with information about paternity leave. The tool was validated by the psychiatric and obstetrics and gynecolgy (OBG) subject experts for comprehensiveness, relevance, and comprehensibility. The tool was piloted among 10 fathers and the item difficulty and discriminative index were computed. Items with poor discriminative and difficulty index were discarded and it was reevaluated by the experts; Content Validity Index (CVI) was computed using Lawshe's formula [10] and CVI was 0.89. Internal consistency reliability of the tool by Cronbach's alpha coefficient yielded 0.91. The final tool consisted of 50 items.

Procedures

The first-time fathers were interviewed at 24 weeks to 1 year of the birth of their infant. Each father was interviewed separately at the workplace. The respondents were asked to report their experiences during the child's first year. The total items were 50 and the scores were ranged from 50 to a maximum of 200 and the responses were given weightage based on the mean scores. The interview lasted for 35-45 min and was documented with their permission.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis was conducted using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 17 (IBM SPSS Modeler, USA). Respondents' baseline characteristics and responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics and association between sociodemographic factors and response categories were computed by Pearson's chi-square test or Fisher's exact probability test. An alpha less than 0.05 was considered to be significant in all analyses.


  Results Top


A total of 149 first-time fathers were recruited through purposive sampling technique and 131 (87.46%) fathers completed the interview. The attrition rate of n = 18 (12.54%) first-time fathers included those respondents who did not answer all the items and those withdrew from the study after answering a minimum of 10-12 items, reporting that they had to attend an emergency meeting and unexpected work, etc.

Respondents' characteristics

The respondents' age ranged from 27 years to 36 years with mean age of 28.91, SD 6.39. A greater proportion of the respondents had University under and postgraduates education n = 101 (77.10%) and the rest n = 30 (22.90%) had diploma technical education. All of them n-131 (100%) were private company employees with their monthly income above ₹50,000 and n = 24 (18.32%) of the first-time fathers reported they were the sole breadwinners for their family and n = 107(81.68%) had working partners to support in managing the family expenses.

Regarding their paternal postpartum period n = 63 (48.09%) first-time fathers had 6-9 months of newborns and n = 68 (51.91%) had infants aged 9 months to less than 1 year. A majority of the respondents had n = 79 (60.31%) daughters and n = 52 (39.69%) had sons. Paternity leave was not availed by any first-time fathers and n = 107 (81.68%) had working partners and n = 24 (18.32%) unemployed partners taking care of the child. Among working parents, n = 37 ( 34.58%) had family support to take care of the baby and n = 70 (65.42%) were depending on babysitters, maids, and crèches.

Key concepts related to experiences of first-time fathers

The mean scores of experience of first-time fathers during the child's first year ranged from 71 to 194 out of possible scores of 200 and the mean percentage was 72.93 standard deviation (SD) 3.403. Of the n = 131 respondents, the vast majority (92.75%) reported an emotional seesaw experience of amazing emotional highs, feelings, and, of course fight or flight response - anger, frustration, sadness, guilt, depression, or self-pity, and sometimes feeling more low within the family while adjusting to their new roles. Changes in lifestyle was experienced by 88.25% of the fathers, rejuvenating experience by 77.25%, social isolation and lack of time for leisure activities and hobbies by 69%, relationship difficulties with partner, parents, and friends by 67.25%, balancing career and family issues were reported by 66%, and experiencing ongoing physical problems by 65.5%. However, only 57.5% reported that they experienced financial constraints in the first year of the postpaternal period. A majority of the first-time fathers - 61.34% - reported positive postpartum experiences as compared to 38.66% who reported negative fatherhood experiences [Table 1].
Table 1: New fathers' experiences during the child's first year N = 131

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Experiences of first-time fathers during the child's first year

An important element in this study was the quantitative measure of first-time fathers' experiences in the child's first-year period on a four-point Likert scale. The highest rated category of experiences reported by the first-time fathers was emotional upheaval (92.75%). The subcategories of responses stated by first-time fathers were sudden mood swings (97%), hypersensitivity to criticism (88.5%), lack of motivation (90.25%), frequent frustration (96.5%), discouraged feelings (91.75%), irritability (97.25%), anxiousness, guilt (85.75%) in fulfilling the role of the father, problems with concentration (89.75%) due to strain in the role, physical and emotional exhaustion, feeling incompetent in taking care of the child and family demands, ambivalence (91.75%) about the fathering role, sudden impulsiveness, and taking of risks such as reckless driving for unknown reasons (96.75).

The second largest category of experiences (88.25%) reported was related to a chaotic lifestyle in terms of experiencing conflicts regarding how they perceived a man should be and how they actually were (92.75%), loss of independence (89.75%), lifestyle ruled by the child's needs and activities (86%), disturbances in daily routine activities (95.25%), sharing of household chores and responsibilities (89%), performing feeding, diapering, playing, and taking care of the child when wife is busy (79%), too many household responsibilities, which were not there before the child's birth (94.75%), and less domination over the partner experiencing equality and changes in the power balance (78.25%) roles in the family; sometimes they felt a shift in decision making power.

The third category of feelings described by the first-time fathers were positive experiences of fatherhood in terms of wholeness built on the close relation to the child such as happiness, joy, and pleasurable and rejuvenating feelings (77.25%) as the father. A majority (80.25%) reported that fatherhood evoked the feelings of love, affection, and tenderness, and made them feel like a real (79%) and complete (75.75%) man in life. The fourth category of experiences reported by them constituted the lack of time and feelings of social isolation (69%) from friends, family members, and parents. Most of them reported that due to domestic and childcare activities, they did not get time for recreation and pursuing their hobbies, and attending social gatherings and outdoor parties with friends (64.75%).

The fifth category of experiences (67.25%) reported by them constituted changes in their relationships and poor communication in quality and quantity with their partners, friends and lack of intimacy with their partners (78.75%). Balancing career and family was the sixth category of responses (66%) by the first-time fathers and the seventh category was related to physical problems (65.5%) experienced by them in terms of exhaustion, indigestion, throbbing headache, fatigue, physically drained energy level, restless insomnia, and overdependence on drugs and alcohol to overcome physical and emotional weakness. The lowest reported category of experiences by the first-time fathers were related to financial difficulties (57.5%) in terms of meeting the growing demands of the family, childcare activities, the child's and partner's needs, health checkups, medications, and entertainment of visitors and celebration of functions in the family.


  Discussion Top


This study reports the experiences of first-time fathers during the child's first year. The transition to fatherhood is one of the most significant and challenging experiences a man will ever face. The transition into a parent presents fathers with both an opportunity to learn a new role and the experience of stress and change. [11] Every man has his own unique history, experiences, and individual characteristics in his understanding of what it means to be a father and a parent. [6] It is helpful for every father to know that with the birth of his child, changes will occur within himself and with all his relationships--with his child, the mother of his child, his own parents, and with the surrounding community. [4],[6],[12]

The results of this present study have demonstrated that first-time fathers have positive and negative experiences during the child's first year of life. A majority of first-time fathers - 61.34% - reported positive and pleasant postpartum paternal experiences and 38.66% reported negative fatherhood experiences due to physical and psychological role strain, family commitments, home chores, and financial constraints associated with the arrival of the child. The evidence emerging from the present study is in consistence with the findings of Condon [4] who postulated that the transition to parenthood is a difficult one and first-time fathers experience stress and feel alienated as they do not know what to expect and what role it is that they can play. Similarly, Pilyoung [13] argues that first-time fathers experience fewer positive thoughts about parenting (positive parenting) and the baby (positive baby) during the first year in the postpartum period. In the public mind, the stigma attached to the diagnosis of negative feelings and experiences appears to dissuade men from identifying their struggle, acknowledging their needs, and seeking help for their difficulties. The study suggests that health care providers must acknowledge the pressure that is placed on today's fathers to perform efficiently in various roles as financier, stabilizer, companion, and caretaker. Further, this recognition must be coupled with understanding, compassion, and gender-sensitive clinical practice within the health care industry, and men friendly health care support services for making their transition into fatherhood healthy and positive.

Emotional see saw experience

The first year of postpartum period rather than pregnancy would appear to be the most stressful period for parents undergoing a transition to parenthood. [1],[4] The study findings revealed that the vast majority (92.75%) of first-time fathers reported fatherhood as an emotionally overwhelming experience but it caused strain, exhaustion, ambivalence, resentment, anger, and led to feelings of being fatigued and drained of physical and emotional energy and they experienced difficulties in living up to the new demands of being a father and felt frustration. Hall [11] and Russell [14] reported similar findings of 50% of first-time fathers experiencing severe to moderate mood disorders, feelings of guilt, loss, exhaustion, ambivalence, resentment, anger, conflict with their partners, more arguing, poor relationship, struggling with changing roles and identities, and distress following the birth of their first infant. The stigma of mood disorders prohibits its prevalence from being known and thus, sustains the myth that it is a rare and strange occurrence usually experienced by men who have some form of emotional and personal deficit. This research findings shows that maternity services have a key role in training, supporting, and encouraging men to expand their caring roles during the child's first year as their mental health and emotional well-being and the relationship between them and their spouse are critical to the health and well-being of the mothers, babies, and themselves.

Lifestyle change experience

For first-time fathers, the arrival of a child results in lifestyle changes as the baby occupies the central position in the family and everything revolves around his/her needs and the fathers became more bound than before. [6],[7] The study findings reveal that the majority (88.25%) of first-time fathers have experienced considerable lifestyle changes after the infant's arrival in terms of less space for spontaneous actions, disruption in daily routines and taking responsibility for the baby when wife cannot do. An interesting finding is that the vast majority of fathers are involved in most of the daily childcare tasks such as nappy-changing, keeping awake at night, bathing, putting the child to bed, spending more time shopping, and doing housework plus providing more of the family income. Supportive findings were reported by Premberg [15] Russell [14] that first-time fathers experience extensive changes in their lives and that there was no turning back and there were feelings of loss concerning their previous lifestyle. They reported that first-time fathers' lives had become far more restricted since the birth of their babies due to the involvement in childcare activities and they did not have enough time for themselves. This study findings calls for reforming the health care professionals' interactions with men so as to spend more time with them to inquire into their concerns, provide specifically designed father-friendly classes to address the significant changes that take place for men during the transition to fatherhood, and encourage health-promoting behaviors to maintain successful functioning.

Rejuvenating experience

To become a father is an overwhelming experience, which demands adaptability to a completely new life situation with increased responsibility. Results of this investigation have demonstrated that the majority (77.25%) of first-time fathers energetically report fatherhood as a pleasant experience and claim that it evokes sense of happiness, feelings of love, affection, and tenderness toward infants. Some of them reported that they derived a great deal of satisfaction and pride from fathering and felt that the father role made them feel like a complete and real man in life. Consistent findings were reported by Leodoro [16] and Sapountzi [17] of first-time fathers considering the first year of fatherhood as the most joyous and ecstatic experience that their lives offered and many men reported that after they became fathers, they displayed different aspects of themselves at work and home.

Social isolation and lack of time

Becoming parents leads to changes in how married couples divide their responsibilities within the home. A majority of first-time fathers (69%) reported that they found a lack of time for sports, hobbies, leisure activities, spending time with their friends, parents, and sometimes felt that they were socially isolated. Quite a few of them complained about postponing their hobbies and leisure-time activities, and experienced conflicts and chaos in their life between work, friends, family, and the infant. They did not have enough time for themselves and their spouses to meet their own individual needs and their needs as a couple. Supportive findings were reported by Hall [11] Ahlborg and Strandmark [18] of first-time fathers experiencing conflict between several aspects of equal value in life such as work, hobbies, friends, and family. The fathers had a fear of being isolated, had not expected the infant to be as nonsocial and demanding as it proved to be, and felt deeply unhappy. They felt that it was required of them to change their behavior and attitudes and expressed frustration at having less time for themselves and being less free as individuals. This calls for the attention of maternity health care personnel to understand that new fathers are on a steep learning curve and need support and guidance right from the start to discuss their thoughts and feelings about the changes they face for better coping in their transition.

Relationship difficulties

There is now compelling evidence on the importance of a stable family relationship on the emotional well-being of children and adults. [12] During the transition to parenthood, there are significant challenges that new parents face, and many experience some level of deterioration in the quality of their relationship during this time. Adjusting to new roles, conflicting expectations about parenting, reduced relationship and leisure time, and challenges in managing work-life balance can put pressure on relationships for first-time fathers. Results of the present study revealed that highest percentage (67.25%) of the first-time fathers felt that the postpartum paternal period had subjected them to poor communication in both quantity and quality with decreased marital satisfaction and lack of intimacy with their partner and minimal quality of communication with their parents and friends. The evidence emerging from this study is in line with several studies by Ahlborg and Strandmark, [18] Genesoni, [19] and Ramachandani [20] who reported that fathers expressed a feeling of marital conflict and dissatisfaction. Some felt that their wives did not have any feeling to spare for them. The babies were the focus of the mothers' love at the expense of the fathers who did not feel emotionally confirmed. Men also expressed feelings of sadness at not having had any sexual relations after the birth of the baby. [16],[20]

Poor quality parental relationships are associated with poor parenting, poor quality parent-child relationships, and poor long-term social emotional and educational outcomes for children. Early intervention is of paramount importance if this erosion is to be stemmed. Amid all the adjustments new parents need to make, the couple's relationship can often become vulnerable as partners struggle to maintain their preparenthood focus on each other. Practitioners can help new parents through the transition via programs that focus on the couple's relationship alongside the challenges of parenting. Therefore, understanding the factors associated with the decline in satisfaction and the interactions between them can arm practitioners with information to help clients prepare for, and perhaps counteract, the ways in which becoming a parent negatively impacts couple relationships.

Balancing career and family

While fatherhood can be a source of great happiness, the stresses and strains of balancing work and family life may have an impact on the overall well-being. Working parents who say they find it difficult to manage the responsibilities of their jobs and families are somewhat less happy overall than those who do not have difficulty in balancing these things. The study findings revealed that a majority of the first-time fathers (66%) reported fatherhood as multitasking as they had to balance work, job pressure, career-centric attitude, job security, accomplishment, and family demands and they found it difficult to balance at times. Levitt, [3] Condon [4] and Tohotoa [7] reported consistent findings of paid employment influencing the amount of time available for men's parenting for the child and family and they made sacrifices at work because of the child, which caused job pressure, escalated role demands, work strain and increased responsibilities, and poor job satisfaction.

Men are often expected to be strong and capable; yet fathers also have to contend with the emotional changes and challenges that a new baby brings to the family. At times, this balancing or juggling act can be difficult and traumatic. For some men, the struggle is reflected in emotional distress or depression. This study findings call for the attention of health care personnel to organize community- and hospital-based male-friendly health-care services, male-oriented classes and male-specific health education camps where men feel comfortable in discussing their issues and the significant changes that take place in them during the transition to fatherhood for effective coping.

Physical problems

The all-consuming nature of fathering makes men feel exhausted and drained of physical and emotional energy. Dealing with lack of sleep is another greatest challenge faced by new parents. Some babies find a sleeping pattern quickly that does not disrupt the household but many parents face sleepless nights well into the child's first year. When one is tired, one can feel irritable and the level of stress in a household with a sleepless baby can be very high. The potential for misunderstandings and arguments is great largely due to the lack of quality sleep in parents. The study reveals that a majority of first-time fathers (65.5%) had reported the loss of weight without trying, experiencing of indigestion, pain, on-and-off headache, feeling physically drained and exhausted with no energy, and overdependence on alcohol and sleeping pills. Geneasoni [19] and Ramchandani [20] reported consistent findings of first-time fathers feeling physically exhausted, that the fatigue experienced by them were unbearable, and that they were less energetic during the entire postpartum year. Maternity health care professionals should include fathers in child-mother-family education programs, offer them the opportunity to discuss their difficulties and problems that they are facing, and support them to support their partners and infants.

Financial adjustments

The study reported that the highest percentage of fathers (55%) experienced financial constraints to meet the family's, child's, and partner's needs, spend a huge amount on check-ups, medications, and hosting functions, and constantly entertain visitors at home. A finding of this study is in line with the literature of Genesoni and Tallandini [19] about fathers' first-year experience who highlighted that first-time fathers' primary stressor was most commonly financial concerns related to sustaining the family and children. Bradley [8] and Schumacher [9] claim that the new father archetype is one of the dominant notions circulating in relation to how men are expected to behave. Men are generally still expected to participate fully in the economic sphere and to act as providers for their families, and are encouraged to construct their self-identities as masculine subjects through their work role. First-time parents rightly want the best of everything for their child. Following the birth of their first child, parents become much more aware of their financial situation and while many couples may have managed alright before the birth of the infant they may find the going more difficult after the birth and many difficult decisions may have to be taken, which can lead to much stress for young couples.

The findings from this study suggest that while there is certainly room for improvement and involvement in the participation of fathers in direct child care, child and family services has a definite role to play in supporting fathers to help them address shortcomings in skills, knowledge, and personal functioning.

Implications for practice

The results of this study may be of value to maternity health care professionals to tailor appropriate teaching strategies for first-time fathers in the ante-, intra-, and postpartum periods. Health care providers need to be aware that first-time fathers are vulnerable to negative experiences similar to mothers. Modified parenthood education related to men-specific and men-oriented programs with courses focusing on first-time fathers, debunking myths, and providing clear explanations, information and guidance may be provided to first-time fathers to avoid unnecessary interventions and negative outcomes.

Regular contact with first-time fathers during the reproductive period through ante- and postnatal clinics and early childhood clinics provides an opportunity to supply information to first-time fathers on parenting. This will assist first-time fathers to distinguish between mood disorders and the normal stress occasioned by a new baby, and make them aware of existing support services. Pamphlets/ brochures outlining the importance of a father's well-being for himself and his family and the common stresses experienced by first-time fathers could also be provided by maternal and child health and education bodies in the hospital and community settings.

Strengths and limitations

This study strengthens the literature on new fathers' experiences during the child's first year, a generally underresearched area. Data were collected from low-risk term infants' new fathers, gerealizabilty to first-time fathers who are at risk for providing lower quality parenting, such as fathers who have had negative early experiences, or suffer from psychopathology and multiple children are limited. Second, this study narrowed its focus on new fathers experiences' during the child's first year. Future studies are recommended to explore the new fathers' experiences on the long-term developmental period of the child.


  Conclusion Top


The finding of this study provides a preliminary insight to help maternity health care providers in identifying new fathers' experiences during the child's first year. Since no other health professional has as much routine contact with fathers, the maternity team is ideally placed to provide new fathers with timely, relevant information about paternal postpartum experiences, which may increase their coping skills. Ambivalent and negative attitudes toward fathers are relatively common among welfare, health, and education workers.[1]

New fathers need to be included in all aspects of maternity care and be offered opportunities to discuss and any fears that they might have. Positive involvement of fathers has the potential to decrease their fear and feelings anxiety and increase trust and respect. It will promote confidence in fathers as valued co-parents. When fathers are well-prepared and involved in maternal and child care, there are many health and well-being benefits for themselves, their partner, the baby, and the family. Increasing awareness of these benefits has implications for our society as a whole. Improved fatherhood education to meet the needs of fathers and early awareness and intervention may limit the negative impact of paternal postpartum experiences on parenting attitudes and behavior during the first year of the postpartum period. The maternal and child health professionals can provide male-friendly health services, male-specific education programs, and a male-friendly environment to enable fathers in being actively involved in the postpartum care of their partner, the infant, and themselves. This will promote positive parenting experiences and outcomes for fathers and their families.

Acknowledgement

I thank the respondents and managing supervisors of the study setting for their support and participation.

Financial Support and Sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

 
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1 “Being relieved and puzzled”: A qualitative study of first time fathers’ experiences postpartum in Jordan
Tamador Al Tarawneh,Noordeen Shoqirat,Mona Almalik
Women and Birth. 2019;
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