The active engagement of fathers in maternity care is associated with long-term benefits for the father, their partner, and their child. Midwives are ideally placed to engage fathers, but few studies have explored midwives' experiences of working with men. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe midwives' perceptions and experiences of engaging fathers in perinatal services.
A multi-method approach was utilised. Registered midwives (N=106) providing perinatal services to families in Australia participated in an online survey. Of these, 13 also participated in semi-structured telephone interviews. Descriptive analyses summarised the online survey data. The interview data were coded using semantic thematic analysis.
Survey results indicated that midwives unanimously agreed that engaging fathers is part of their role and acknowledged the importance of receiving education to develop knowledge and skills about fathers. Analysis of the telephone interviews led to the identification of a range of strategies, facilitators and barriers to engaging fathers in midwifery services. Some of these were related to characteristics of midwives, factors related specifically to fathers, and several external factors relating to organisational policies.
Findings from this study could inform maternity health care policies, as well the development of resources, education and ongoing professional training for midwives to promote father-inclusive practice.