Becoming a parent is a major life transition at any time but in a pandemic it takes on a whole other experience as expectant mums and dads navigate the current health and social restrictions to protect the safety of their unborn child.
Understanding how COVID-19 has affected families is the focus of a new University of South Australia and Monash University study where researchers are exploring fathers’ experiences of pregnancy and birth and how these may have differed from what they expected.
UniSA’s Dr Ashlee Borgkvist and Monash University’s Dr Levita D’Souza say the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented uncertainty for parents, with impacts that could last for years to come.
“Last year, due to COVID-19 restrictions, many expectant mothers were required to face doctors’ appointments, scans, and even birth, alone,” Dr Borgkvist says.
“There’s no doubt this has been unnerving and confronting for the mums, but the dads have also been affected.
“A father’s experiences of pregnancy can affect how well he can support his partner pre and post birth, how well he is able to develop a bond with the new baby, and how successfully he transitions into fatherhood.
“There is also some evidence to suggest that prenatal paternal involvement is associated with later engagement with the baby.”
Dr D’Souza says while the pandemic could have serious repercussions on family relations, understanding what these are, and what we might do to remedy them, is still unknown.
“In our research, we’re hoping to gain an understanding of how COVID-19 has affected fathers, mothers, their relationship, their mental health, and their connection with the new baby,” Dr D’Souza says.
“We’re also keen to find out whether there are any differences between first time dads and dads who had other children prior to the pandemic.
“By speaking to dads across Australia, we hope to identify common themes, and develop some support mechanisms that could help address any gaps or shortfalls we might find.”
The study welcomes all fathers from across Australia who have become dads since March 2019.
To find out more, or to take part in the study, please visit: https://research.monash.edu/en/projects/fathers-experiences-of-pregnancy-and-birth-during-covid-19