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This review identifies interventions involving the fathers of preterm infants that have been tested in neonatal intensive care units (NICU). It examines their effects on the fathers and infants and highlights any differences between fathers and mothers who took part in the same interventions.
A systematic search was performed in English from 1995 to 1 September 2020, using the CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, PubMed and PsycINFO databases. We examined 14 peer-reviewed studies that investigated NICU interventions involving 478 fathers, whose 511 infants were born before 37 weeks of gestation. These included empirical studies with clinical outcomes.
Studies on fathers' interventions in NICUs were limited and mainly restricted to basic skin-to-skin contact or tactile interventions. The interventions had similar general positive effects on mothers and fathers when it came to infant physiological and behavioural reactions. There was also evidence of a positive effect on the fathers, including their mental health.
Including fathers as active partners in the care of their preterm newborn infants produced good outcomes for both of them. Further research is needed to develop new, multimodal and interactive interventions that provide fathers with positive contact with their preterm infants.