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Introduction: In time past mothers were regarded as sole caregivers of NICU babies, however the fathers’ role is now increasingly being recognized. Mothers are involved in providing care such as feeding, hygiene, and kangaroo mother care. Fathers are usually called on for medical bills and usually enter the neonatal unit for observational visits. The aim of the study was to determine experiences of fathers during the hospitalization of their babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) which is referred to as the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) of University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Materials and Methods: This was a cross sectional study carried out in the neonatal clinic of UPTH over a period of 10 weeks. Participants were fathers who had brought their babies for follow up. Information obtained using interviewer administered questionnaires included biodata, occupation and experiences during their babies’ stay in SCBU.
Results: There were thirty seven participants, 15 (40.5%) of whom were in the middle socioeconomic class. Generally the experience was described as stressful by 25 (62.5%), confusing by 5 (12%), and pleasant by 7 (18.9%) fathers.
Contributors to stress were financial implications of babies’ care (13: 35.1%), illness in the mother (5: 13.5%), lack of care for other children (16: 43.2%) and worries about procedures and equipment used on their babies (14; 37.8%). Fathers also experienced disruptions in family (14; 35.1%) and social life (22; 55%). Thirty three (82.5%) fathers had family support. Religion and prayers were some of the strategies fathers employed to cope with their stress.
Conclusion: Fathers found the SCBU experience stressful. The financial burden of care contributed to the stress and some fathers resorted to prayers as a coping mechanism.