Open Access Research article

A community perspective on the role of fathers during pregnancy: a qualitative study

Amina P Alio1*, Cindi A Lewis2, Kenneth Scarborough3, Kenn Harris4 and Kevin Fiscella5

Author Affiliations

1 Public Health Sciences, University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, 265 Crittenden Blvd, CU 420644, Rochester, NY 14642, USA

2 Translational Biomedical Sciences, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, 265 Crittenden Blvd CU 420644, Rochester, NY 14642, USA

3 REACHUP, Incorporated, 2902 N. Armenia Avenue, Suite 100, Tampa, Florida 33607, USA

4 New Haven Healthy Start, New Haven, Connecticut, 70 Audubon Street, New Haven, Connecticut 06510, USA

5 Family Medicine, Public Health Sciences, and Oncology, University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry and Wilmot Cancer Center, 1381 South Ave, Rochester, New York 14620, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2013, 13:60  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-13-60

Published: 7 March 2013



Defining male involvement during pregnancy is essential for the development of future research and appropriate interventions to optimize services aiming to improve birth outcomes. Study Aim: To define male involvement during pregnancy and obtain community-based recommendations for interventions to improve male involvement during pregnancy.


We conducted focus groups with mothers and fathers from the National Healthy Start Association program in order to obtain detailed descriptions of male involvement activities, benefits, barriers, and proposed solutions for increasing male involvement during pregnancy. The majority of participants were African American parents.


The involved “male” was identified as either the biological father, or, the current male partner of the pregnant woman. Both men and women described the ideal, involved father or male partner as present, accessible, available, understanding, willing to learn about the pregnancy process and eager to provide emotional, physical and financial support to the woman carrying the child. Women emphasized a sense of “togetherness” during the pregnancy. Suggestions included creating male-targeted prenatal programs, enhancing current interventions targeting females, and increasing healthcare providers’ awareness of the importance of men’s involvement during pregnancy.


Individual, family, community, societal and policy factors play a role in barring or diminishing the involvement of fathers during pregnancy. Future research and interventions should target these factors and their interaction in order to increase fathers’ involvement and thereby improve pregnancy outcomes.

Pregnancy; Father involvement; Healthy start and fathers