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The experience of fathers during the covid-19 UK maternity care restrictions

Andrews, K., Ayers, S. ORCID: 0000-0002-6153-2460 & Williams, L. R. ORCID: 0000-0003-2430-1142 (2022). The experience of fathers during the covid-19 UK maternity care restrictions. Midwifery, 113, article number 103434. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2022.103434


OBJECTIVE: During the COVID-19 pandemic fathers in the UK were excluded from many aspects of maternity care to reduce escalating transmission rates. This study explores the experiences of fathers who had a baby during the pandemic to understand what effect these maternity restrictions had on them and their relationship to the baby.

DESIGN: A qualitative interview study of the experiences of fathers whose baby was born during the pandemic-related UK maternity restrictions.

PARTICIPANTS AND SETTING: Non-probability voluntary response sampling of 20 fathers: including 13 primiparous fathers and 7 multiparous fathers. Eligibility criteria were that fathers lived in the UK and had a baby born on or after the 23rd March 2020; the start of the most severe COVID-19 maternity restrictions. Participants were interviewed remotely via telephone using semi-structured interviews which were transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.

FINDINGS: Four themes, including ten sub-themes, were identified that described fathers' experiences of the maternity restrictions and the father-baby relationship. The themes were: (1) The impact on paternal experience: this theme describes a collective negative paternal maternity experience as a result of the restrictions. Notably, father exclusion produced feelings of isolation and a sense of loss, along with a disconnection from the pregnancy. (2) The impact on the father-baby relationship: this theme discusses the adverse consequence of the restrictions on initial father-baby bonding. (3) Observed impact on mothers: the observed detrimental impact that excluding fathers had on maternal mental health and well-being. Finally, (4) Fatherhood in the 'new normal': the change of daily living during the pandemic aided profound family relationship building, improving long-term father-baby bonding, compared to pre-pandemic conditions.

KEY CONCLUSIONS: The findings provide evidence of undesirable consequences the pandemic-related UK maternity restrictions had on birth partners. With restrictions to maternity care implemented across the globe, these concerns may be applicable at an international scale.

IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: This study adds to other contemporary literature on this subject and can inform discussion among maternity services of the importance of including fathers for improved parental well-being and initial infant bonding.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Midwifery & Radiography
SWORD Depositor:
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