It’s official: Government says that maternity services should focus on the mother but be family centred or family friendly – that means you too should feel at the centre of things, fully informed, not on the edge
What should the maternity service feel like for me?
You should feel welcome in all sorts of little ways – midwives and staff should make eye contact with you and talk to you. You should find two chairs put out when you attend appointments with your partner.
What information should a maternity service have about me?
Your name and contact details should be recorded and you should be told if/how this information will be kept confidential (you can have any data about you amended or removed at any time.) A mother can legally give information about you without your permission, but then the maternity service has to make contact with you.
What should we expect from our midwife?
- to have the support from a midwife throughout the pregnancy to just after the birth
- to engage with both of you – it is a “partnership”, to use the official term, and that includes you
- to include you in developing the care plan for the pregnancy
- access to discuss any serious worries with the midwife, separately from your partner, just as your partner has the same right to confidential discussion
What should I expect from antenatal classes?
- to feel welcome at them and to have equal input
- the sessions should be sensitive to your cultural and religious beliefs
- held at a time and place that you can get to them
- antenatal classes should give you a clear understanding of your role at the birth (if you and your partner decide you should be there)
- antenatal classes on breastfeeding should include you, and support you to understand how to support your partner in her feeding choice
What information should I receive?
If you feel that all the information is going to your partner and you are left on the sidelines, it is not you that is in the wrong – the service is. This is what information you definitely should get:
- health issues related to your partner and your baby, over which you have such a massive influence, such as smoking, breastfeeding and mental health
- where to go if you have particular needs (e.g. disability, health issues) or particular problems (e.g. conflict in the home or drugs/alcohol)
- what is expected of you during pregnancy, birth and after
- other local services that may be useful before/after the birth
What should I expect at a scan?
You should be welcomed and made a full part of the proceedings. A scan is a wonderfully exciting way to connect with your baby – by seeing them in action inside the womb. Some dads say it’s the first time they felt a real bond with their baby – so remember to bring some money to buy a keepsake scan photograph. Dads and bonding.
It’s also a way of supporting your partner – scans are most often amazing experiences, but they are diagnostic tests, and on occasion will find something suspected to be wrong with the baby. If this happens it can be distressing and supporting each other is so important. Scans: what to expect
Since October 2014, Fathers and partners have the right to take unpaid time off work to accompany expectant mothers to up to 2 antenatal appointments, which include scans.
If you wish to attend more than 2 antenatal appointments then you still have other choices. Talk to your employer about taking additional unpaid leave, or even consider using annual leave where necessary.
What if I am a young dad?
Maternity services should provide special sessions for very young mums and dads. Nick Hornby’s book, Slam, describes the horror of a teenage dad meeting one of his teachers at an antenatal class!
You should have time just with your partner and the midwife – not always with someone else present, for example, your partner’s mum.
You should receive information specially designed for you – not what is produced for thirty-somethings.
What should I expect at the birth?
You should feel welcome and be well informed at all stages by all the health professionals you meet, starting at the reception desk.
You should have the opportunity to discuss options and any interventions offered privately with your partner if that is needed, and if there is an emergency, things should be explained to you, particularly if you have to be parted from your partner (e.g. a Caesarean with full anaesthetic).
What should I expect postnatally?
An opinion poll in 2007 found that 70% of people think dads should be able to stay overnight with their partners. This might not be possible, but if not, you should at least write to your maternity service afterwards and ask them to change things in future. As a minimum you can expect:
- not to be treated like a visitor on the postnatal ward – you are the baby’s father and your partner’s main support
- to be offered help with bathing the baby and changing nappies if you want it- now is the time to learn! If you are away when mum is offered this help, it should be offered to you again when you get back
- the midwife should ask both of you about the birth and how you feel it went. It might not seem very important to you, but for some parents, talking about the birth can be essential
- given information about options for postnatal care – e.g. at your home or at the local Children’s Centre
- if/when the health visitor visits the home of your baby, they should ask to talk to you also, even if you live at another address
Why does all this matter?
Engaging with dads matters A LOT to both mum and baby. Dads have a massive influence over the health of both mother and baby and are much more involved in day-to-day babycare than in previous generations, so they need the same kind of preparation as mums do.
And it is the law. The Equality Act 2006 states that all public services must set out to meet the needs of both women and men. Very often this does not happen.
What should I do if I want to do something about the way I was treated?
If you and your partner feel either that the maternity service treated you badly (or indeed particularly well), then write to the Head of Midwifery and let them know. Copy the letter to your local Maternity Services Liaison Committee or Patient advice and liaison services (PALS).
Often people feel that they don’t like to make a fuss, but it is important to give feedback so that changes can be made in the future for the benefit of other parents.