Aim: This study sought to identify fathers' feelings and thoughts about their partners, babies, and medical staff when an emergency cesarean section (c-section) is required. Information was gathered on fathers' reactions when they first learned of the need for surgery, during surgery, and on first seeing their babies and partners post-surgery.
Methods: Japanese men whose partners delivered a live baby by emergency c-section, without having planned to, at a private maternity hospital were interviewed. The men had semistructured interviews within 1 week post-partum, alone or together with their partners, according to the couples' wishes. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed both descriptively and inductively.
Results: All participants had their first babies with their present partners. The indications for a c-section were classified into two groups: a fetal distress group and a prolonged labor group. Although the fathers understood the need for surgery when the decision was made, they were anxious and felt that the lives of both their partner and baby were at risk. Moreover, they were frustrated that they could do nothing. In general, they also tried to remain calm so that their partners would not become agitated. The indications for surgery seemed to produce different feelings among the fathers and research interviews with the couples might provide a better opportunity to review and share birth experiences.
Conclusion: Midwives who care for women prior to surgery must be aware of fathers' complex feelings and needs in emergency c-section cases. Knowing their reactions to this type of surgery might help to strengthen the support from fathers and facilitate an understanding of couples' concerns and needs.