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A qualitative exploratory study of UK first-time fathers’ experiences, mental health and wellbeing needs during their transition to fatherhood
  1. Sharin Baldwin1,
  2. Mary Malone2,
  3. Jane Sandall3,
  4. Debra Bick4
  1. 1 Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Palliative Care/ Learning and Development, King’s College London/ London North West University Healthcare Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Oxford School of Nursing and Midwifery, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK
  3. 3 Department of Women and Children’s Health, School of Life Course Science, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King’s College London, London, UK
  4. 4 Warwick Clinical Trials Unit, University of Warwick, and University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire, Warwick, UK
  1. Correspondence to Sharin Baldwin; sharin.baldwin{at}


Objectives To develop an understanding of men’s experiences of first-time fatherhood, their mental health and wellbeing needs.

Design A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using framework analysis.

Setting Two large National Health Service integrated care trusts covering four London (UK) local authority boroughs.

Participants First-time fathers with children under 12 months of age were included. Maximum variation sampling was used, with 21 fathers recruited. Ten of these men described their ethnic background as Indian, seven as White British, one as Spanish, one as Black African, one as Black Caribbean and one as Pakistani. Participants’ ages ranged from 20 to over 60 years; completion of full-time education ranged from high school certificate to doctorate level; and annual income ranged from £15 000 to over £61 000. Non-English speaking fathers, those experiencing bereavement following neonatal death, stillbirth, pregnancy loss, sudden infant death, and fathers with existing severe mental illnesses were excluded.

Results Nine major categories were identified: ‘preparation for fatherhood’, ‘rollercoaster of feelings’, ‘new identity’, ‘challenges and impact’, ‘changed relationship: we’re in a different place’, ‘coping and support’, ‘health professionals and services: experience, provision and support’, ‘barriers to accessing support’, and ‘men’s perceived needs: what fathers want’. Resident (residing with their partner and baby) and non-resident fathers in this study highlighted broadly similar needs, as did fathers for whom English was their first language and those for whom it was not. A key finding of this study relates to men’s own perceived needs and how they would like to be supported during the perinatal period, contributing to the current evidence.

Conclusions This study provides insight into first-time fathers’ experiences during their transition to fatherhood, with important implications for healthcare policy makers, service providers and professionals for how perinatal and early years services are planned and provided for both new parents.

  • First-time fathers
  • Mental wellbeing
  • Transition to fatherhood
  • perinatal period

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  • Contributors SB developed and designed the research proposal, negotiated access to the study site, obtained the required approvals, recruited participants, conducted the interviews, undertook the data analysis and wrote the first draft of this paper. DB, JS and MM supervised the study, reviewed and agreed the coding framework, commented on the draft manuscripts and agreed upon the final version of the paper.

  • Funding This study was funded by a National Institute for Health Research Clinical Doctoral Fellowship (ICACDRF-2015-01-031).

  • Disclaimer SB is funded by a National Institute for Health Research Clinical Doctoral Fellowship (ICACDRF-2015-01-031). This paper presents independent research funded by NIHR. JS is a NIHR senior investigator, and JS and DB are supported by NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care South London. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the National Health Service, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Approval was obtained from the Health Research Authority and given favourable opinion by London—Fulham Research Ethics Committee (IRAS no: 203629).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available upon reasonable request. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.