Yes, I am a man and a father! (Re)constructing male identity through engagement in childbirth

Braide et al.

Objective. To study how the male experience of playing an active role in prenatal care and childbirth influences the resignification of male identity.

Method. This is a qualitative study employing interpretive anthropological analysis supported by ethnographic methods to produce a thick description. The study included nine men attending a center of excellence in humanized childbirth and who played an active role in the birth of their child in the period from April 2015 to November 2016. Data were collected through semi-structured, ethnographically-oriented interviews, with a flexible script that explored the following themes: active participation in childbirth, feelings associated with standing by the child’s mother since pregnancy, and meaning of fatherhood after participation in childbirth. The participants talked about these topics freely. The narratives were transcribed and analyzed in terms of categories and contextual semantic interpretation.

Results. On average, eight meetings were held with each participant. Analysis of the interviews revealed two theme categories: resignification of masculinity and promotion of self-care. The utterances reflect the participants’ understanding that masculinity is not lost if men play an active role in childbirth and care. In addition, they reveal that the experience of participating in childbirth opened a possibility for men to approach the healthcare system to maintain health, rather than to strictly treat disease.

Conclusion. The men participating in this research revealed that they can be aware of self-care and become empowered to lead their families, ensuring the construction of a new male identify in contemporary society.

Original research