Fathers' expectations and experiences of childbirth: implications for postnatal adjustment

Dalton, Louise (2000). Fathers' expectations and experiences of childbirth: implications for postnatal adjustment. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e2a8


Objectives: This study aimed to explore the experiences of a group of first time fathers during the transition to parenthood, and identify factors which predict paternal adjustment postpartum. The transactional model of stress and coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) was used as a framework to investigate the relationships between mood, coping strategies, social support, expectations and experiences of childbirth antepartum and six weeks after the birth.

Design: This was a prospective, postal questionnaire study.

Methods: Thirty five prospective fathers and their partners were recruited through parent education classes; data are reported for 26 of these. Fathers completed questionnaires during the third trimester of pregnancy, immediately following the birth and six weeks postpartum. Mothers' postnatal depression scores were obtained directly from health visitors. Adaptation to parenthood was considered in terms of reported paternal anxiety, depression and parenting stress.

Results: The study found evidence of clinically significant levels of anxiety antepartum, which decreased following the birth. Fathers reported their experience of childbirth to be more positive than they had expected, and this was largely independent of obstetric variables. Preliminary evidence suggests problem-focused coping strategies were associated with more negative experiences of childbirth. Adaptation to parenthood was best predicted by antenatal mood.

Conclusions: The implications of maladaptive and adaptive coping strategies for antenatal interventions are discussed and directions for future research outlined. Longer term follow up is required to explore the observed association between parenting stress, obstetric variables and experiences of childbirth.

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