Childbirth expectations in a complicated pregnancy, the father's perspective

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Bourrier, Diane
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Although the presence of fathers during labor and birth has become the norm, little is known about their childbirth expectations. Unmet expectations may lead to dissatisfaction with both the childbirth process and the partner and may later affect perceptions of parenting and marital satisfaction. No studies have focused on fathers' expectations in complicated pregnancies. The potential for unmet expectations may be greater in complicated pregnancies because many fathers expect "normal" pregnancies. The purpose of this qualitative study was to provide an in-depth description of fathers' expectations for childbirth in complicated pregnancies. Mishel's theory of uncertainty provided an organizing framework for this study. Twenty e pectant first time and experienced fathers whose partners were diagnosed with pregnancy complications were recruited using purposeful sampling. Data were collected using semistructured interviews and analyzed by content analysis. The contextual meaning of childbirth was exemplified by five themes: preparing for complications, being there antepartum, prolonging the pregnancy, trusting in technology, and being there during childbirth. The prenatal period was stressful for many fathers. The diagnosis of prenatal complications required that fathers adjust their expectations. Some encountered difficulty "letting go" of past expectations while others had few expectations. Several fathers held high expectations of technology. Results of this study have implications for health care providers dealing with expectant fathers prenatally and intrapartum. Consideration should be given to assisting fathers formulate realistic childbirth expectations so that potential negative effects of unmet expectations may be avoided. A philosophy of family centered care should include attention to the concerns of expectant fathers.