IMR Press / JOMH / Volume 18 / Issue 2 / DOI: 10.31083/jomh.2021.119
Open Access Original Research
Fatherhood during COVID-19: fathers' perspectives on pregnancy and prenatal care
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1 Department of Community Health, The University of Texas at Tyler, Tyler, TX 75708, USA
2 Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston – Dallas Regional Campus, School of Public Health, Dallas, TX 75390, USA
3 Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
*Correspondence: npoulos@utsystem.edu (Natalie S. Poulos)
These authors contributed equally.
J. Mens. Health 2022, 18(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.31083/jomh.2021.119
Submitted: 14 July 2021 | Accepted: 20 August 2021 | Published: 10 February 2022
Copyright: © 2022 The Author(s). Published by IMR Press.
This is an open access article under the CC BY 4.0 license.
Abstract

Background and objective: In early 2020, the novel COVID-19 virus arrived in the United States and resulted in broad, sweeping changes to safety procedures within healthcare settings, including prenatal care settings. While implemented to protect both providers and patients, this protocol limited fathers’ ability to attend prenatal care appointments. At this time, limited research has been published on the effects of COVID-19 healthcare protocols on fathers’ experiences and perceptions of prenatal care and parenting. This study aimed to understand how COVID-19 affected expectant fathers and fathers with newborns perceptions and experiences during pregnancy, prenatal care, and early parenting. Materials and methods: Structured interviews were completed with fathers expecting a child and fathers with children born after March 2020. Interviews were completed by video conference and recorded. Audio from each interview was transcribed. Content and thematic analysis was performed. Results: In total, 34 fathers were interviewed. Three broad themes were identified from the data including changing prenatal care policies that did not consider fathers, unique stressors associated with COVID-19, and isolation’s negative impact on connecting to the pregnancy and support. Fathers reported limited engagement with the prenatal care system due to pandemic-related organizational and systematic changes in healthcare delivery. Results also suggest that fathers experienced elevated feelings of both stress and isolation from the pregnancy and prenatal care. Conclusions: Ultimately, this study highlights the need for providers and organizations to develop strategies for transforming prenatal healthcare delivery into inclusive, family centered care during emergency situations, as well as use this opportunity to build family centered care into normal prenatal care operations.

Keywords
Fatherhood
COVID-19
Pregnancy
Parenting
Qualitative research
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