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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.