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Being there: a qualitative interview study with fathers present during the resuscitation of their baby at delivery

Abstract

Objective To explore fathers' experiences of the resuscitation of their baby at delivery.

Design A descriptive, retrospective design using tape-recorded semistructured interviews with fathers present during the resuscitation of their baby at delivery. Fathers described what happened, their interactions with healthcare professionals, their feelings at the time and afterwards.

Setting Participants were recruited from a large teaching hospital in the UK.

Participants A purposive sample of 20 fathers whose baby required resuscitation at delivery.

Results Participant responses were analysed using thematic analysis. Four broad themes were identified: ‘preparation’, ‘knowing what happened’, ‘his response’ and ‘impact on him’. Fathers had no difficulty recalling their emotions during the resuscitation. These feelings remained vivid and were mostly negative. Most fathers wanted to go to their baby during the resuscitation but did not do so. They felt they should stay with their partner, did not want to impede the resuscitation or felt they were not ‘allowed’ to go to their baby. The fathers' position in the room and the extent to which they were focusing on their partner had an impact on their recollection of what happened. Fathers had no opportunity to discuss the resuscitation with healthcare professionals afterwards. Several fathers felt they had not yet recovered from the experience and a few had symptoms synonymous with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Conclusion This is the first study to specifically explore fathers' experiences of newborn resuscitation. The findings should inform healthcare education, policy development and the provision of support to fathers.

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