Effective and holistic care for women, children and families needs to involve both women and men. Conversations centered on child birth, maternal and child health tend to focus on the mother and child. This of course is extremely important and essential for care. However, there is a growing conversation on how to incorporate fathers into childbirth, family care and parenting. The Fathers and Parenting session at the ICM Congress focused on three countries who have developed solutions to engage fathers in all aspects of the birthing process.
Switzerland: The Family Start Coordinated Care Program
In Switzerland, the coordinated post-natal care system for families is severely fragmented. In the 1960s, on average, women and their families stayed in the hospital for ten days post birth. Today, families are sent home in three days with little post-natal follow up. Healthcare professionals lack coordination in providing post-natal care for families. In 2010, self-employed midwives coordinated by Elisabeth Kurth, midwife and lecturer from Switzerland, conducted a study to reevaluate the post-natal care system. Health professionals, midwives, mothers and fathers participated in focus groups to share their ideas for post-natal care.
In this study, mothers and fathers were able to express their uncertainty in the birthing process and their desire to have in home post-natal care for their families. Fathers were given the opportunity to creatively express themselves through creating a lego structure sharing their vision of the birthing process. The Family Start Coordinated Care program was piloted in 2012 in Bass, Switzerland. The project launched with a 24 hour hotline for families as well as a post-natal in home care follow up system. As a result of this program, the cost for outpatient newborn and maternal care was significantly reduced and every member of the family, including the father, was included in the process.
Sweden: First Time Fathers Survey
In Sweden, Aasa Premberg, midwife from Sweden, recognized a gap between fathers, their involvement and engagement in maternal care and delivery. Historically, Sweden has offered childbirth education for families since the 1950s. However, studies have shown men often feel left out of the birth process. Aasa developed the First Time Father’s survey for families who are beginning their birth journey. The survey engages fathers two to four months after the birth of their first child. The survey poses twenty-two essential questions related to the birthing and delivery process. The key themes addressed in the survey are:
- General Information
- Emotional Support
The survey has shown that most fathers are worried prior to the time of birth. Many fathers do not feel involved in the process and find it difficult to connect with their partner’s personal experience. There was an 80% overall positive response rate from fathers who were given the survey. The father’s identify the survey as a helpful tool to express their concerns and feelings related to the childbirth and the delivery experience.
Hong Kong: Skin to Skin
Many fathers in Hong Kong have expressed a disconnection to child birth, especially during the nursing process. Angel Tam, introduced skin to skin (STS) contact among families who delivered full term babies through selected caesarian.
STS provides fathers with an opportunity to experience skin to skin contact with their babies when mothers are not available after birth. Before the program was launched in April of 2012, the average separation time between mothers, fathers and babies was sixty-five minutes. After the launch of the program the average separation time was only twenty-nine minutes. In Hong Kong, skin to skin contact with babies after birth has been a process proven to be an effective way to engage fathers in the birthing process.
Engaging fathers in all aspects of birth is critical to maternal and child health. All of these various methods have shown familial relationships are strengthened when fathers are included. At Girls’ Globe we look forward to continuing the conversation on the importance of engaging men and fathers in advocating for and being involved in global conversation to advance maternal and child health.