Researchers interviewed 22 expectant fathers, aged 23 to 41, in Michigan after they viewed a routine ultrasound of their unborn child taken at weeks 16 to 20 of pregnancy. Half of the men were first-time fathers.
The ultrasound helped the men truly understand that they were going to have a child and reassured them that all was well with the pregnancy, the researchers said.
Viewing the ultrasound also prompted the men to think deeply on their roles as fathers, according to the study published online April 21 in the journal Fatherhood.
For example, one expectant father told the researchers: "Now that we know that it's a girl, you know, now I'm thinking about... walking her down the aisle someday, you know, [I'm] thinking that far ahead... which is crazy, but I mean, it's like my brain went from bringing her into the world and taking care of her and making sure she is taken care of... to her future and everything."
Another man confided: "I need to make sure I have a steady job because my child eating depends on me. If I don't work, he don't eat. And I'd rather my child eat before I do."
Encouragement from other fathers was important in making the fathers in the study decide to be present for the ultrasound, according to the researchers, who also found that the expectant fathers' reactions ranged from quiet excitement to elation.
"While all our fathers felt the mothers were receiving good care, about half of them felt excluded or ignored and wished that providers would offer them more explanation and opportunity to ask questions during the appointment," Dr. Tova Walsh, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a university news release.
"Because so much previous research shows that mothers and babies benefit when fathers are positively involved and supportive during pregnancy, they should feel welcome at an event that is their first interaction with the health care of the mother and baby," Walsh added.
The March of Dimes has more about pregnancy ultrasound.