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Father's participation in planned home birth: a meningful act for woman


Jane Baptista QuiteteI; Jéssika Andrade de Melo Braga MonteiroII

I Obstetric Nurse. PhD in Nursing. Nursing Professor, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Rio das Ostras Campus. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. E-mail:
II Obstetric Nurse. Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. E-mail:





Objective: to discuss the father's participation in labour and childbirth from the women's perspective. Method: qualitative research, using semi-structured interviews with eight women who had a planned home birth attended by obstetric nurses in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The project was approved by Research Ethics Committee. The statements were analyzed using content analysis. Results: data analysis revealed a thematic category named: giving meaning to the father's presence, in which it is possible to understand the importance of father's support for women. Thus, natural birth becomes easier; women feel safer. Conclusion: the participation of the father during labor and childbirth was taken as fundamental for women.

Descriptors: Paternity, home birth, humanized delivery, obstetric nursing.




The planned home birth came to rescue delivery in its most natural form by assuming that childbirth is a physiological process. It also came to rescue women's autonomy, as they have been curtailed with the institutionalization of childbirth. In home birth, women can give birth in a place where they feel safe, which in case of normal risk pregnancies, can be their own home1,2.

With the institutionalization of childbirth in the 1940s, women were no longer accompanied by family members at home during labor and delivery, and were alone in this event, since the hospital institution was not planned to have a companion in that process2,3.

Planned home birth was rescued in the 1990s as a struggle movement of women against the medicalization of childbirth with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) and organized sectors of society. It culminated in public policies that favored the performance of obstetric nurses in the care of planned home births in urban centers1. Obstetric nurses consider childbirth as a natural, female, physiological, and intimate event 4. The goal of obstetric nurses in the home birth is to rescue delivery in its most natural form, since the home environment favors the physiological evolution of childbirth so that women can experience this moment in a pleasurable way1.

The father's presence as a companion during childbirth is the subject of several studies that reveal its importance, advantages and benefits, but in obstetric practice, men are seen with prejudice3. Even with the Law of the Companion (Law 11.108/ 2005), which guarantees parturients the right to choose a companion during all labor, delivery and immediate postpartum within the scope of the Unified Health System5, many professionals still do not realize the importance of the father's presence for the woman and the baby2.

The aim of this study is to discuss the father's participation during labor and delivery from the perspective of the woman, that is, to understand how women feel about having the father as a participant in the process of home birth. The object of this study is the father's participation in planned home birth in order to portray how is it for the woman to have the father as companion in labor and delivery.



Assistance at birth is still very centralized in the woman and the baby, and puts men in the background. The involvement of fathers brings a mix of feelings not only to men, but especially to women, who feel more secure and prepared for this special moment, in addition to encouraging husband/wife and father/child bonding. Participation of the father provides emotional support, helps women better withstand the pain and strain of childbirth, and the presence of someone of their trust on their side makes them feel more satisfied, confident and happy3.

The reintegration of fathers in the delivery room happened from 1970 with the objective of recovering the effectiveness and valorization of women and family references, since these values were lost in the passage from home delivery to hospital delivery3,4.

With the medicalization of labor, non-physicians were excluded from the follow up of labor, which left a gap. The relationship between professionals and companions is uneven in the hierarchical model of health care. Companions are seen with a certain prejudice by health professionals, who claim a lack of physical structure to accommodate them (environment, surgical clothing, overcrowding in maternity wards), and the companion's unpreparedness to attend the delivery3. For these reasons, men's desire to share the birth of their child is not always realized.

The participation of men in maternity hospitals is a relatively recent event, which began in the 1980s in private maternity hospitals. In public maternity units, the father's participation in labor began to be allowed and encouraged from the 1990s, particularly in those that seek care provision in line with the philosophy of humanized childbirth6.



This is a descriptive qualitative field study in which was considered the subjectivity of the research object – father's participation in the planned home birth from women's perspective.

The procedure for data collection occurred through the snowball sampling method. It allows the definition of a sample through indications made by people who share or know others with common characteristics of interest of the study7. The starting point for the selection of participants was through obstetric nurses who indicated women they had followed up in the State of Rio de Janeiro. The first interviewees indicated others and so on, until the repetition of data occurred. Data collection was closed after the eighth interview.

Inclusion criteria were the following: to have had at least one of their children by natural birth at home (planned home birth), delivery assisted by obstetrical nurses in the State of Rio de Janeiro, voluntary participation in the study, presence of the father as a companion during labor and delivery, age over 18 years old.

For data collection, was conducted a semi-structured interview addressing questions about the gestation and childbirth with use of the following guiding question: Was the father involved in the birth process? If so, how did you feel having the father at your side during this whole process?

The interviews were recorded by digital media player equipment, heard and transcribed by the researcher. Interviews were conducted in the second half of 2014 and beginning of the first half of 2015. Data from the transcription of testimonies went through exhaustive reading, separation of events, naming of events, thematic grouping and naming of thematic categories, as recommended by the methodological reference of Bardin 8.

The anonymity of the eight interviewees was maintained. Their statements were identified by E1, E2, E3, and so on.

This study is a cut of the doctoral thesis titled Attributing meanings to obstetrical nurses: a social construction from users' point of view in the perspective of symbolic interactionism9. All recommendations of Resolution 466/2012 of the National Health Council were followed. The project was approved by the Research Ethics Committee of the Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro.



Data analysis revealed a thematic category named 'Signifying the presence of the father', which answered the object of this study.

Women's feelings about the father's involvement in childbirth are positive. They reported that fathers have helped in the course of labor, and they felt secure and supported with their presence during labor and delivery. The presence of the companion brings comfort, security and confidence 6, and characterizes as emotional support2,10.

It was very cool. It was really cool. I felt supported. (E2)

But I felt safe, that I could surrender, I felt confident to live this process intensely . (E5)

So you already feel it as a very great force, too. (E1)

The parturient needs continuous support during childbirth. When such support is given by a family member, women have a more positive assessment of delivery, feel more satisfied and happier10. Father's participation in childbirth is perceived by women as very important, fundamental and essential for a natural childbirth process. This fact is confirmed by studies that affirm the presence of a companion during labor promotes the physical and psychic health of the parturient6.

When experiencing the process of birth, men enjoy an intense moment, full of meaning, feelings and reflections3. This favors the co-responsibility of men and women in the parturition process and childbirth, which in turn will give birth to a new man, a new father11, thereby allowing the delineation of a new role he will play2.

The father's involvement is very important. [...] very helpful, very important. (E3)

For me, his role [father] was fundamental. His presence at the time of childbirth was vital for keeping me balanced . (E2)

The father, I think it's essential. His presence there was essential to me . (E8)

Fundamental [father's participation], that's the word . (E6)

Women knew the father would be with them for whatever they needed. They knew they could count on his presence, that they could surrender to labor, because the father would be there to provide all the support needed.

I did not have to worry about anything because he [father] was there to assist me. I saw he was there, by the sides. (E5)

The presence of the companion in the delivery room is considered a non-pharmacological method for the reduction of pain12. Studies show that the father's presence contributes to less painful experiences and suffering sometimes experienced by women in the birth scene, and helps to avoid unnecessary procedures (Kristeller maneuver, repeated vaginal touch, episiotomy, oxytocin , among others), thereby reducing complications during the birth process6,13,14. The companion's presence is also a strategy for humanization of labor and birth, because it asserts the rights of women, who are vulnerable during labor and delivery14.

I was even surprised with him [father] there at the time of childbirth. He surprised me. (E4)

In women's view, fathers gave birth together with them. According to testimonies, labor and delivery were experienced by the couple in a joint, intimate and familiar work. Home assisted births allow greater involvement of the father, promote greater control of the situation by the couple, and a sense of freedom and responsibility, which are reasons leading couples to choose assisted home birth15. In addition, for professionals working in home childbirth (obstetric nurses), the father/companion is not a stranger in the environment, but someone who positively favors the physiology of a childbirth and is focused on humanized care and respect for those involved2.

Fathers have been increasingly active during prenatal care, labor and delivery, and allow themselves to be thrilled to be the first to hold their babies or to cut the umbilical cord3,15. The main motivation for the father's involvement in childbirth is still his partner's protection and support by promoting physical and psychological well-being, and fostering early bonding with their child3.

In fact, I usually say that he [father] gave birth together with me, that it was not only my labor. He gave birth in both times. I guess he felt the pain with me in both times. (E8)

He [father] says he gave birth together with me, and he really did. (E2)

I did not feel it was my labor. I felt it was a joint labor, a labor of both . (E5)

Given the benefits of the companion's presence, health professionals should welcome and encourage it from prenatal care to delivery, continuing during puerperal period and breastfeeding, thus minimizing fears and yearnings with birth16, and by understanding that fathers' active participation in this whole process should begin as early as possible2.

For men, there is an affirmation of fatherhood when experiencing the birth of their children. Their role as father is valued, and this is also a possibility of personal maturation, because it provides a reflection on the value of life and the conjugal relationship, and brings positive repercussions for the couple and for society3,15,17.

Men who participate actively in the birth experience begin to have more respect for women. They become more involved in the care of their children, the planning of a future pregnancy, and in providing for the family15. The image of the domineering and insensitive man gives way to a new being capable of emotional involvement15.



The objective of this study was reached, because was identified the importance of father's participation in labor and delivery from the woman's perspective.

The father's participation favors the development of labor, reduces obstetric interventions, and reinforces feelings such as security, strength, and support for women. These feelings help women to surrender during labor and delivery, which favors their performance.

Even today, little is seen or discussed about the presence and participation of the father at the time of childbirth, since gestation and childbirth are still considered female events from which, consequently, the father has been excluded. In opposition to this reality, in planned home births, participation of the father is active and he is seen as a coparticipant together with the woman.

Limitations of this study were the scarcity of scientific productions on the theme and a sample that does not represent the universe of the phenomenon investigated, therefore, prevents the generalization of findings. However, the results of this study reflect a local reality and may support further research.



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