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Background. The presence of fathers during the birth of their babies has been recognised as beneficial for both the mother and the baby.
Objective. This study investigated father absence at delivery and reasons thereof and associated demographic factors.
Methods. This was a quantitative, cross-sectional study. Anonymous questionnaires were completed by mothers admitted to the postnatal ward at Pelonomi Tertiary Hospital, Bloemfontein, after a live delivery. The mothers answered questions regarding mother and father characteristics (age, employment, residence), whether the father was present or absent at delivery and the reasons for his absence.
Results. The highest percentage (30.7%) of the 137 participating mothers was in the age range 20–25 years. More than half (56.2%) resided in Bloemfontein/Mangaung, and 70.6% were unemployed. Most mothers (68.4%) were multiparous. In total, 81.0% of fathers were absent at delivery, although 50.0% had planned to be at the delivery. The main reason for their absence was employment (52.7%), which can be substantiated by the fact that most fathers (80.3%) were employed. For more than half (58.1%) of the deliveries, neither the father nor another person (family member, friend) was present at the delivery. No demographic characteristics of the mother or father were associated with father absence at delivery.
Conclusion. Father absence was common. Community-based programmes must encourage father involvement in all spheres of their children’s lives and make them aware of the impact that their presence can have.
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