Unanticipated Cesarean Birth from the Father's Perspective


  • Katharyn Antle May R.N., D.N.Sc.,

    Corresponding author
    1. Katharyn Antle May is Assistant Professor, Department of Family Health Care Nursing, at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. May is a member of ASPO and ICEA, and has conducted several research studies in the area of expectant and new fatherhood.
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  • Deanna Tomlinson Sollid R.N., M.S.N., A.C.C.E.

    1. Deanna Tomlinson Sollid is a Graduate Research Assistant in the School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco. Ms. Sollid is an ASPO-certified childbirth educator and is currently employed as Childbirth Educator/Maternity Nurse Specialist with a private obstetrical practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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  • This study was funded by a research grant from the Office of Research, School of Nursing, UCSF. The authors are grateful to Bay Area ASPO, and the obstetrical nursing staff of Moffitt Hospital, UCSF, for their support of this project.

Address inquiries to Dr. Katharyn May, N 411 Y, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143.


ABSTRACT: Despite the paucity of research on men's experiences of cesarean birth, fathers' attendance at cesareans has become well-established in some areas of the U.S. In this study, interviews were conducted with 46 fathers whose wives had an uncomplicated pregnancy culminating in an unanticipated cesarean birth with a healthy neonate and no major complications for mother and child. Interviews were tape recorded, transcribed and analyzed. Of these 46 fathers, 52 per cent attended the cesarean, and 48 per cent did not, primarily because hospital policy prohibited it.

Fathers' predominant emotional reaction to the decision for cesarean was relief (52%); 27 per cent described their reactions as acceptance, 10 per cent expressed moderate disappointment, and 11 per cent were strongly disappointed or angry. Most negative reactions centered not on the cesarean itself, but on policies which excluded fathers from attendance arbitrarily, and on staff behaviors which reflected disregard for the fathers'need to feel included in the birth, whether they were permitted to attend the delivery or not.

Seventy per cent of these fathers expressed some displeasure at physician or nurse behaviors, expressing disappointment and resentment about being excluded from discussions leading to the decision for the cesarean, having little previous contact with the obstetrician, the nursing staff failing to provide the father with adequate information and support during and immediately after the cesarean, and being denied access to the wife and infant after the cesarean for apparently arbitrary reasons.