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Dads in the delivery room

Published 01 July 2014

95% of men now attend the birth of their baby, research commissioned by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas) shows. The survey of nearly 500 parents, carried out by YouGov, illustrates how many women value the presence of the father in the delivery room  - with 60% of mothers saying their partner "really supported" them as they gave birth.

bpas is hosting a public event, Childbirth and the New Dad: how have expectations of fathers' involvement changed?, in London on Tuesday July 1st, exploring how attitudes among both men and women to fathers' role in pregnancy, delivery and early parenting have changed over time.

The presence of dads in the delivery room has increased dramatically since the mid-20th Century, from an estimated one in 10 in 1960 to the high numbers today.1 Despite concerns that men's attendance at birth is now no longer a choice but an obligation - and some aggressive backlash against celebrity fathers who have publically absented themselves from the birth of their children - very few surveyed felt there was "too much pressure" on men to be there (5% of fathers, 2% of mothers).

63% of fathers said they wanted to be there to "share the experience" and more than a third (37%) felt they stood up for their partner and communicated her needs and wishes during the birth.

Around one in 10 fathers (9%) felt they "got in the way" during the birth, but only 2% of mothers described their own partner in this way.  And while more than a quarter of fathers (27%) said they were unable to help much during the birth, less than a fifth (18%) of mothers felt this about their partner.

There has been a number of recent policy initiatives to support men's involvement with their baby, including a suggested 4 weeks of leave paid at the minimum wage immediately after the birth and paid time off for 4 antenatal appointments. From October this year, men will get paid leave for 2 antenatal appointments and from April next year the opportunity to share up to 50 weeks of leave with their partner (39 weeks at statutory pay), including taking leave at the same time or regularly swapping.

While men may want and be expected to take on a greater role in baby care, this survey does suggest they are currently less likely than women to receive information directly from healthcare professionals on caring for their baby. For example only around a third of men received information on bathing the baby (35%) and sleeping positions (30%) compared with around half of women (48% and 49% respectively).

Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said:

“Comprehensive family planning services mean couples today are able to make decisions about the timing and size of their families, and become parents together through choice, not by accident. Far from feeling forced into the delivery suite, dads want to be there to share the experience and support their partner - and these results show how much mothers value their presence.

“The challenge now is to develop meaningful policies for the postnatal period and beyond which build on that involvement, supporting parents’ choices on combining childrearing and work, and ensuring that mothers and fathers can share care in the ways that work best for them.”

1Supporting Active Fatherhood in Britain, Dr Laura King, June 2012

ENDS

For more information and to obtain the full results of the survey, please contact the bpas press office on 0207 612 0206 or 07788 725 185 or email press@bpas.org

Notes to Editors

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4841 adults of which 478 are parents of children aged 6 and under. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th - 23rd June 2014. 
  • The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Childbirth and the New Dad: How have expectations of fathers' involvement changed?
Tuesday July 1st, 18:30, Nash Lecture Theatre, King's College London

About the British Pregnancy Advisory Service

bpas is a charity which provides reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception from more than 40 centres across the UK. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice.

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