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Knowing the Sex of Unborn Children Helps Men Become "Fathers" Sooner

Update Date: Apr 26, 2013 10:00 AM EDT

Discovering the sex of an unborn child may help fathers-to-be bond with their baby, according to a new study.

British researchers at the University of Birmingham also found that men who get to name their son or daughter feel more emotionally connected to their babies.

Researchers looked at the experience of 11 men aged 22 to 58 over a period of nine months, from the fist scan to eight weeks after the birth of the child.  Researchers analyzed the men's experiences and feelings about becoming a father to find out ways to make men feel more involved in pregnancy and parenthood.

Lead researcher Dr. Jonathan Ives, a senior lecturer in the centre for Medicine, Ethics, Society and History at the University of Birmingham, and his team found that knowing the sex allowed men to think of the unborn child as a person they could father and develop a relationship with.

Researchers found that some men's understanding of what it means to be a good man or good partner could act as a barrier to being drawn into antenatal or postnatal care.

However, researchers noted that this manly attitude to childcare does not "necessarily demonstrative of a lack of commitment to fatherhood, but merely a different construction of the fatherhood role in that context," according to the study.

Ives and his team believe that men just need help figuring out how they can be involved in the pregnancy while still retaining their self-image.

"Helping men effect an 'active transformation into positive fatherhood' may require helping them to reconcile their moral sense of how they ought to act as a partner and as a man, with how they need to act as a father and a father-to-be," researchers wrote in the study. "Encouraging fathers to become actively involved, and drawing them in, may require more than making them feel welcome and creating space for them to talk, but also giving them explicit permission to become actively involved."

While attending scans helped make their partner's pregnancy more real for men, researchers found that "it was discovering the gender of their child, and giving him/her a name," that really enabled men to feel emotionally connected to their child.

"Serious consideration needs to be given to how men can be empowered to become the fathers they want to be," Ives said in a news release.

"Healthcare workers who are involved in this process need to engage with men's views on what it is to be a good man, a good partner, and a good father and help them achieve an appropriate balance between their own needs and interests and those of their partner and future children," he added.

Jason Cole, one of the participants in the study, said that he really wanted to know the gender of his first child.

"My partner wasn't fussed. She was happy either way but I really wanted to know," Cole said.

"I don't know why. As soon as we found out she was a girl, from about 20 weeks, we named her Molly and I think it did help me prepare for her and connect with her once she was born," he explained.

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