A study from Rutgers University-Brunswick in New Jersey used environmental and visual cues to promote fathers' involvement in prenatal care.

Typical OB-GYN clinics tend to focus only mothers and the child as shown in common pictures, brochures, and magazines found in prenatal clinics. The study attempted to increase men's feelings of comfort and expectations of involvement in prenatal settings through three randomized control trials.

The research published in the journal PLOS One revealed that when expectant fathers engage in behaviors supporting positive pregnancy outcomes, the mother and infant reaps psychological and physical health benefits.

Father-Friendly Clinics

Using social psychological theory on identity safety, the trials tested if the inclusion of environmental cues that represent men and fatherhood in prenatal care offices influenced men's behavior during the prenatal period.

Two simulated prenatal care waiting rooms were used in the study. One included only images of women and infants while the other room added pictures of men and babies and additional cues such as pamphlets and magazines aimed toward men. The men participating in the studies viewed or visited one of these two OB-GYN offices with their pregnant partners.

Men in the first and third studies viewed online videos of simulated prenatal care offices, while men in the second study visited the office in person. These studies were replicated with an online sample of expectant fathers.

Participants who viewed the simulated rooms or were exposed to a father-friendly prenatal care office believed that doctors in that office would expect men to be more involved in the prenatal period. They responded to the altered social norm by reporting greater intentions to be more involved. The participants also felt more comfortable and confident about their ability to become fathers.

Seeing a balance of father-and-mother ambience may help fathers better visualize in their role in prenatal care, according to the research.

Barriers And Limitations To Fathers' Participation

Socioeconomic, interpersonal, and motivational factors are just some of the barriers to fathers' involvement during a woman's pregnancy. Among the understudied factors include expectations of fathers' roles and men's perceptions of the significance of father involvement.

"We should increase men's comfort and perceived expectations of involvement during pregnancy. This may be a simple intervention that would be easy for doctor offices to implement because of its low cost and scalability," said Diana Sanchez, study coauthor and psychology professor at Rutgers-New Brunswick School of Arts and Science

The men who perceived that doctors had higher expectations of fathers involvement also reported that they are willing to learn about pregnancy and engage in healthy habits, such as avoiding alcohol, and smoking during their partner's pregnancy.

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