Childbirth fear in Swedish fathers is associated with parental stress as well as poor physical and mental health
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OBJECTIVE: to compare self-rated health and perceived difficulties during pregnancy as well as antenatal attendance, birth experience and parental stress in fathers with and without childbirth related fear. DESIGN: a longitudinal regional survey. Data were collected by three questionnaires. SETTING: three hospitals in the middle-north part of Sweden. PARTICIPANTS: 1047 expectant fathers recruited in mid-pregnancy and followed up at two months and one year after birth. MEASUREMENTS: childbirth fear was assessed using the Fear of Birth Scale (FOBS). Self-rated physical and mental health and perceived difficulties were assessed in mid pregnancy. Two months after birth antenatal attendance, mode of birth and the birth experience were investigated. Parental stress was measured using the Swedish Parental Stress Questionnaire (SPSQ). Crude and adjusted odds ratios were calculated between expectant fathers who scored 50 and above (childbirth fear) and those that did not (no fear). FINDINGS: expectant fathers with childbirth related fear (13.6%) reported poorer physical (OR 1.8; 95% CI 1.2-2.8) and mental (OR 3.0; 1.8-5.1) health than their non-fearful counterparts. The fearful fathers were more likely to perceive difficulties in pregnancy (OR 2.1; 1.4-3.0), and the forthcoming birth (OR 4.3; 2.9-6.3) compared to fathers without childbirth fear. First-time fathers with fear attended fewer antenatal classes. Fathers with high fear reported higher mean scores in four of the five subscales of the SPSQ. Childbirth related fear was not associated with mode of birth or fathers' birth experience. KEY CONCLUSIONS: expectant fathers with childbirth related fear had poorer health, viewed the pregnancy, birth and the forthcoming parenthood with more difficulties. They were less often present during antenatal classes and had higher parental stress. IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: this study provides insight into the health of expectant fathers during pregnancy and highlights the importance of understanding how childbirth fear may affect expectant fathers in both the short and longer term.