Top 17 Fears of New Fathers During Pregnancy
Researchers analyzed Reddit posts to identify expectant fathers’ top concerns.
Posted Dec 27, 2020
Bringing a new life into the world is arguably one of the scariest and most exciting things that a person could do. It should be no surprise then that a significant proportion of men and women experience clinical levels of anxiety while awaiting the arrival of a new child.
Yet, most existing research has been conducted on women’s experience of pregnancy while ignoring men’s experience. Prior research indicates that men often use social media and anonymous online forums for emotional support, rather than using formal support services. Thus, Pilkington and Rominov (2017) sought to understand the nature of men’s fears during pregnancy through a content analysis of a Reddit forum — the subreddit PreDaddit, which is described on Reddit as a “Male-oriented version of r/BabyBumps to guide fathers-to-be through the most interesting nine months that life has to offer.”
To analyze the Reddit posts, the researchers began by filtering posts through words that indicate worry, such as “fear," “worry," and “worried” (p. 210). Given the goal of the study, the researchers excluded posts in which 1) the author stated that she was female, 2) the author did not share a concern, 3) the author was not expecting a child, 4) no text was included. The final analysis included 535 posts from 426 unique Reddit users, comprising approximately 20% of the posts on PreDaddit.
Afterward, the researchers coded the posts and found 17 distinct types of concerns. From the least common to the most common worry, they are:
#17 Name of child (1.0% of posts)
#16 Child’s compatibility with pets (1.8% of posts)
#15 Changes in sex life with partner (1.9% of posts)
#14 Doctor appointments (2.1% of posts)
#13 Gender of child (2.3% of posts)
#12 Changes to lifestyle due to child (2.3% of posts)
#11 Work-family balance (2.4% of posts)
#10 Possible genetic abnormalities of child (2.8% of posts)
#9 Child’s well-being post-birth (4.0% of posts)
#8 Relationship problems with partner (4.2% of posts)
#7 Relationship problems with family and friends (4.7% of posts)
#6 Feeling unprepared for fatherhood (5.3% of posts)
#5 Inadequate finances (7.0% of posts)
#4 Worry about being a good father (8.7% of posts)
#3 Well-being of partner (10.8% of posts)
#2 Childbirth concerns (15.7% of posts)
#1 Miscarriage concerns (23.0% of posts)
In summary, Redditors on PreDaddit were the most concerned about miscarriage (“The fear of miscarriage has really put a major buzz kill on the whole thought of bringing a little ‘us’ into the world.”; p. 211), childbirth (“I’m nervous, I should probably be sleeping but my mind is racing, my wife is 39 weeks and we are getting induced in the morning around 7 ... Wish me luck guys.”; p. 211), the well-being of their partner (“I can’t stop worrying about my wife. She is 12 weeks along. Smooth pregnancy so far but everything is getting to me. I don’t want to put any pressure on her so I just keep it to myself.”; p. 212), whether they would be a good father (“I don’t know how to raise a child! My biggest fear my entire life is I wouldn’t be a good father and my child would have to go through some experiences I did.”; p. 211), and financial issues (“We don’t live together at the moment, I live away from home, while she is still with her parents. We’re going to find a place together ASAP although we are getting a little bit worried about money.”; p.211).
The researchers note that concerns varied by trimester. Miscarriage was the most common worry in the first two trimesters (over 50% of posts in the first trimester, and over 40% of posts in the second trimester), however, childbirth became a much greater concern in the third trimester (over 70% of posts).
The findings indicate that more effort is needed with regards to educating new fathers on pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. The researchers suggest innovative and cost-efficient methods of reaching fathers, such as creating a forum that is “moderated by health professionals with expertise in pregnancy and early parenthood” (p. 215). However, they point out that the subreddit PreDaddit may not represent the concerns of the larger community of expectant fathers. Furthermore, it should be noted that most of the posts on PreDaddit did not include any concerns, so anxiety is probably not the primary emotion experienced by new fathers. For most, emerging fatherhood likely includes a complex mixture of emotions, both positive and negative.
Pilkington, P. D., & Rominov, H. (2017). Fathers’ worries during pregnancy: A qualitative content analysis of Reddit. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 26(4), 208-218. 10.1891/1058-1243.26.4.208