Dr Gai Harrison1, Ms Kristy Fitzgerald1
1RBWH, Herston, Australia
Background: There is growing recognition of the importance of men’s inclusion in antenatal care and childbirth to optimise outcomes for maternal and newborn health. However, programs aimed at involving fathers tend to focus on how men can best support their partners rather than addressing their own expectations and needs. Fathers commonly report feeling excluded or marginalised during antenatal appointments and childbirth. This exploratory study, led by social workers, was undertaken to generate data to inform a plan for promoting men-inclusive maternity services at Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Method: An environmental audit tool was developed to examine visual depictions of men in maternity services. The audit was administered by two social workers who documented and photographed posters, pamphlets, art work and signage on display. Qualitative analysis was used to elicit the dominant images of men portrayed in this data.
Results: The audit revealed that men are not often visually represented and when they are it is predominantly as supports for their partners or perpetrators of violence (e.g. domestic violence posters). Visual materials focusing on fathers’ needs and experiences as men were scarce. Signage similarly omitted reference to men.
Discussion: The limited visual depictions of men coupled with their negative portrayal in domestic violence literature may deter men’s attendance at maternity services. Although men were positively portrayed as support persons, these representations may promote the idea that their own needs are secondary to their partners and that they are not entitled to health professionals’ support. Future research will build on these findings by eliciting men’s perceptions of the environment of maternity services and whether they experience a sense of inclusion while attending services. The findings will inform a plan for cultural change to enhance men’s sense of inclusion in maternity services.
Kristy has 16 years of social work experience in hospital and health settings and is currently the team leader of the Maternity and Neonatology Social Work Team at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. Kristy’s particular interest is in the area of surrogacy, with other research interests including projects to promote men-inclusive maternity services.