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Male partner participation in maternity care and social support for childbearing women: a discussion paper

Daniele, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-5666-9489 (2021). Male partner participation in maternity care and social support for childbearing women: a discussion paper. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376(1827), article number rstb.2020.. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2020.0021


Male partners/fathers are key support persons for many childbearing women and their involvement in pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum/postnatal period has beneficial effects on a wide range of outcomes related to maternal and child health and family wellbeing. Social support is implicated in the relevant causal pathway, but has received largely tangential attention in the public health literature. This discussion paper aimed to reframe men's participation in maternity care as an opportunity to enhance their readiness and ability to provide social support to women, contributing to the debate on the definition and rationale for male partner involvement, and paving the way for further empirical work.
I begin by presenting a theory of change illustrating the causal pathway leading from male partner participation, through the key intermediate step of social support, to improved health and wellbeing for women and children. I proceed by arguing that many people desire male partner participation in maternity care, however in practice this is often limited due to cultural, social and institutional barriers. I use examples from the intervention literature to demonstrate how participation in care can boost men's motivation to support women and enhance their ability to do so by increasing their knowledge and skills. Finally, I draw up general implications for further male partner involvement programmes, suggesting that in order to achieve meaningful and sustainable gains, attention to design is crucial in order to avoid reinforcing patriarchal gender norms. Programmes should be implemented alongside other efforts to improve quality and promote woman-centred care.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.
Publisher Keywords: male partner, paternal involvement, male partner involvement, men, fathers, male partner participation, father participation, public health/maternal health, maternal and child health, maternal and newborn health, social support,maternity care, maternity services, public health programmes, public health interventions, gender norms, quality of care, woman-centred care
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics > RJ101 Child Health. Child health services
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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