Whose welfare in the labour room? A discussion of the increasing trend of fathers' birth attendance.
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Objective: to review the key literature on fathers' birth attendance, discussing: factors contributing to the increasing trend in men's birth attendance; the different roles and responsibilities men may adopt in the labour room and the implications; and, particularly, the education needs of both the expectant fathers and the professionals.
Literature search: the literature reported here is part of a larger longitudinal ethnographic study of men's experiences of pregnancy and birth, which to date has generated 190 relevant articles. The literature was identified using: the Midwifery Information Resource Service (MIDIRS), PsychLit, Cinahl, Medline, and the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Database. Keywords were: men, fathers, pregnancy, birth, and birth supporters. Literature was also identified using references quoted in papers and hand searching of journals.
Key conclusions: changing cultural and professional attitudes have encouraged fathers' birth attendance, reflected in an increasing volume of research. This research concentrates almost exclusively on labour coaching roles, neglecting exploration of any independent needs men may have.
Implications for practice: a greater awareness of men's experiences will inform midwives and childbirth educators to effectively provide for men's needs during pregnancy and birth.
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