Fathers and Fathering. Men inside the Delivery Room

Lia Lombardi

Abstract


Historical, anthropological, and sociological studies show that pregnancy and childbirth, despite being human “natural” events, actually display strong socio-cultural significance. According to this perspective, childbirth is defined as a “bio-social event” (Oakley, 1984) because it is a product of both biology and society. Starting from this assumption, several women and healthcare operators’ movements emerged and many studies were carried out in Europe and around the world during the 1980s, focusing on childbirth, delivery and reproduction and questioning their deep medicalisation. In 1985, the World Health Organization published recommendations and guidelines on assistance during labour and childbirth procedures in Europe (WHO, 1985) which affirm women's right to reclaim their active role in these events and their right to have their partner with them during delivery. In the context of such movements and studies, research began to investigate men and fathers close to women in labour. The findings highlighted society was changing in terms of gendered distribution of work, moving toward equality, and, consequently, requiring the willingness of both parents to share childcare responsibilities. Drawing from these premises, this study investigates the following questions: a) what kind of participation and involvement characterizes the men-fathers in the delivery room? b) Which socialisation processes precede their arrival in the delivery room? c) Does men’s participation in antenatal training courses provide greater awareness and involvement in the birth event? d) To what extent does men’s active participation change gender and parent-child relationships?

 

Keywords: fathering, childbirth, parenthood, medicalisation, birth-care.


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