Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day: Growing Fathers in Sarasota

The role of the father in birth has changed dramatically in the last half-century. Fifty years ago, few fathers attended births; today, 98% of fathers living with their partners attend the birth of their children. Research from The Fatherhood Institute shows that the quality support provided by a father at the birth of his child is clearly beneficial.

--Studies found that women whose husbands were present and supportive during labor were less distressed (Anderson, & Standley, 1976; Henneborn & Cogan, 1975).
--Laboring women benefit when they feel ‘in control’ of the birth process, and a key component in this is experiencing support from their partner during the birth (Gibbins & Thomson 2001).
--Support during delivery provided by a ‘close support person’ (who can be, and often is, the baby’s father) creates a more positive childbirth experience for the mother, with a shorter duration of delivery and less pain experienced (Tarkka, 2000).
--When labor partners (including fathers) know a lot about pain control, women have shorter labors and are less likely to have epidurals (Enkin et al 1995).
--This support has also been found to be conducive to a more positive attitude by the mother towards motherhood (Mercer et al, 1984).

The important role of the father during birth is receiving national media attention, through the innovative new film The Other Side of the Glass. This movie explores the history of men's role in birth: "From boiling water, to waiting in smoke-filled waiting room only to see baby from 'the other side of the glass,' to now holding his partner's hand during surgery...Men are still disempowered and prevented from connecting with their newborn baby in those first minutes of life."

Here in Sarasota, new fathers have several options to learn about the birth process and what they can expect throughout infancy, as well as to connect with other fathers in our community. The Nurturing Dads Initiative, sponsored by Children First, is for new dads, expectant dads, step-dads, granddads, married dads and single dads wishing to be the best dads they can be. To date over 1190 men from Sarasota, Charlotte and Manatee counties have graduated from the program. Boot Camp for New Dads, offered at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, is "a great opportunity for expectant dads to obtain the insights of veteran dads on the challenges of becoming a father." The workshop is taught by fathers and utilizes a man-to-man approach to fatherhood. This innovative, national program is being funded locally by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Finally, Rosemary Birthing Home and Birthways Family Birth Center offer free open houses and orientations, including classes on Choices in Childbirth. Please contact these centers for appointments.

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