Teaching & Learning

Love at First Image


UW research shows that fathers sometimes feel excluded or ignored by medical providers and want more chances to ask questions. iStock image.

Research suggests that ultrasounds create a powerful connection for dads-to-be.

For many fathers, a pregnancy doesn’t become real until a blurry fetus appears on a screen in a doctor’s office.

According to Tova Walsh, a postdoctoral fellow in the UW School of Medicine and Public Health who studies the bonds between fathers and their children, there’s a “magical moment” when fathers see the first ultrasound images of their unborn children.

In recently published research, Walsh spoke with twenty-two expectant fathers, some of whom shared poignant feelings. One said, “Now that we know that it’s a girl … I’m thinking about … walking her down the aisle someday … which is crazy, but I mean, it’s like my brain went from bringing her into the world and taking care of her to making sure she is taken care of (as) to her future and everything.”

Walsh’s study had some teaching moments for health care providers as well. “While all our fathers felt the mothers were receiving good care,” she says, “about half felt excluded or ignored and wished that providers would offer them more explanation and opportunity to ask questions during the appointment.”

Because so much previous research shows that mothers and babies benefit when fathers are positively involved during pregnancy, Walsh says that health care providers should help fathers feel welcome at an event that is often their first interaction with the health care of the mother and baby.

Walsh came to campus as part of a two-year fellowship as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health and Society Scholar. After completing the fellowship, she will join the faculty at the School of Social Work. Another of her studies looked at the difficulties faced by military fathers returning home from deployment as they reconnect with children who were babies when they left home.

Published in the Fall 2014 issue


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