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Over the past years, the use of epidural anesthesia as an intervention for pain relief has increased in the labor and delivery setting. Exploration of the literature has not identified what effects the addition of this technology has had on the normal childbirth process and those participating in childbirth, specifically the new father. The purpose of this study was to explore first-time fathers' perceptions of their feelings and concerns during the various phases of the labor and delivery experience in which epidural anesthesia is used. The study addresses the following research questions: (a) What are the perceptions of first-time fathers regarding their feelings and concerns at each of the following three stages in the labor and delivery experience: pre-epidural, post-epidural, and at time of delivery of their newborn?; and b) Do the levels of concerns and feelings differ during the various stages identified previously? The convenience sample consisted of first-time fathers whose newborns were delivered in a small Midwest, community hospital. Subjects met the following criteria: a) married at least one year; (b) first baby for both father and mother; (c) attendance at childbirth education classes; and (d) use of epidural anesthesia on spouse during childbirth. Fathers were surveyed through a self-administered questionnaire which was partly derived from The Berry Expectant Fathers Stress Index (BEFSI). Prior to administration, the questionnaire was reviewed by a panel of expert nurses for content and readability. The data from the questionnaires regarding perception and relevant demographic data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS/PC+). The results of the study found that fathers had five feelings and four concerns during childbirth. Feelings included: anxiousness, fear, happiness, confidence and closeness. Concerns included: concern for spouse, concern for baby, concern for self, and concern for the progress of labor. These feelings and concerns were reported at different levels during childbirth.



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