PURPOSE: To describe the perceptions of first-time fathers regarding critical moments of the immediate postpartum period. DESIGN: Qualitative study. SETTING: Data were collected through semistructured interviews with the fathers, using the critical incident technique; this was done in their home, within the first 12 days following the birth of their child. PARTICIPANTS: Sample consisted of 13 first-time fathers. RESULTS: A qualitative analysis allowed for the identification of five domains, five categories, and 12 subcategories of critical incidents within the first 96 hours of the postpartum period. The five domains of incidents relate to self and others: as individuals, as a couple, and as parents in relationship with the environment and with the nursing personnel. On the basis of a combined score of fathers' presence on the maternity ward, we were able to define three subgroups. All groups of fathers were sensitive to interactions with their baby and with the nurses. Highly involved fathers reported not feeling supported by the hospital environment policies in regard to engaging in behaviors that could favor their involvement with their baby. CONCLUSIONS: Increased awareness of fathers' experiences during the immediate postpartum period will enable nurses to respond more effectively to the fathers' needs.
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