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Historically, antenatal education has focused on the health needs of women and babies, without paying much attention to the role, influence or experiences of fathers during this important period of transition. Although fathers often accompany their partners, their own journey to parenthood is rarely addressed. Many fathers experience uncertainty about their role and how to participate in what can feel like a very female domain.
Yet, fathers are increasingly embracing active fatherhood and are becoming more involved in birth-planning and early childcare. Alongside this is a growing demand by men for information about pregnancy, birth, childcare and child development, as well as hands-on, practical advice. Many expectant/new fathers (and their families) benefit from the chance to explore social and emotional aspects of becoming a father, in ways which their own networks do not allow.
Recognising the demands and the benefits, NHS Lothian, NCT (National Childbirth Trust), West Lothian Sure Start, Children in Scotland and Fathers Network Scotland have jointly developed 'Dads2b'. This is a practical resource for antenatal educators and parent support professionals working with fathers-to-be and is freely available to practitioners in Scotland.
The resource originates with the successful NHS Lothian and West Lothian Sure Start programme Dads2b, which has offered antenatal education to groups of fathers in the Lothian area since 2004. The main aims of the approach are to increase fathers' skills and confidence to care for their baby; to guide fathers in supporting their partners through childbirth; and to highlight issues of mental health and wellbeing. Over 800 fathers have used Dads2b in West Lothian and their feedback has been very positive. The programme achieved good practice recognition by Quality Improvement Scotland in 2007, and is highlighted as an example of good practice in the new Scottish Antenatal Parent Education Syllabus, launched earlier this year.
Developed for use by professionals in different contexts, the resource provides practical, accessible activities and materials for group work with expectant fathers. It includes sections on emotions and relationships; labour and birth; postnatal care and infant development; and preparation for fatherhood; as well as signposting to additional resources. It is designed so that facilitators can develop their own, tailored programmes to meet the specific needs of the individuals and groups they are working with.
Initial feedback has been positive as the quote below from a workshop participant illustrates. However, it is a work in progress and we welcome your comments, especially your experiences of using it in your work, and any suggestions for future development or improvement.
"Thought the Dads2b was wonderful and fresh. Quite exciting to hear just how many dads were so keen… Great inspiration."
Contact Kat Allen with your comments and suggestions, or to request CD Rom copies of the resource (free while stocks last). Tel: 0131 222 2440.
 With the support of the Children in Scotland project: Making Gender Equality Real for Children, Fathers and Families, which is funded by the Scottish Government Equality Unit. We are also grateful to NHS Health Scotland for including the Dads2b Resource in the new Scottish Antenatal Education Pack and organising workshops to support health professionals to use the resource during their launch events.
Other articles published in our Dec 2011 newsletter: