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Keywords:

  • childbirth education;
  • labor support;
  • pain and coping during labor

Introduction: The benefits to women of having their male partners present during labor and birth have been well documented, but the effects on men of sharing the birth experience have been less well explored. Several studies have suggested that male partners’ positive experiences at this time may benefit partner and family relationships subsequently, whereas negative experiences may translate into later difficulties in these relationships. This study explored the perceptions of male partners involved in the birthing experience in the Integrated Women's Health Unit of Cairns Base Hospital, Cairns, Australia, over a 6-month period in 2010. The aims of the study were to document male partners’ self-reported perceptions of their antenatal, labor, and birth experiences and birth expectations and birth involvement and to determine whether these perceptions influenced their feelings that their presence during birth was beneficial to the birthing woman.

Methods: Participants were men experiencing for the first time their partner giving birth. A self-administered 14-item questionnaire was used to collect data; 163 of 200 eligible participants returned completed questionnaires. Continuous variables were converted to categorical variables and chi-square testing was used to determine significant differences between groups. The relationship between beneficial presence and antenatal, labor, and birthing experiences was assessed using correlation analysis and hierarchical regression analysis.

Results: There was a significant relationship demonstrated between perceived benefit of the partners’ presence and positive perception of both antenatal experience and birth involvement. There also was a positive relationship between realized birth expectations and both antenatal experience and birth involvement.

Discussion: This study suggests that male partners’ perceptions of beneficial presence during the birth experience can be enhanced by their feeling well informed and supported during the antenatal period and feeling involved and supported by staff during birth. These findings have implications for the provision of information and support to male partners by midwives and childbirth educators and provide the basis for further research in this area.