Service-level language and communication

Positive impacts on families will be amplified if health services take a whole-of-service approach to inclusive practice and use language across all communication formats that reflect fathers and non-birthing parents as valuable, competent, equal parents.


Engage your colleagues to work through this service checklist:

  • Reflect on your service culture and the expectations of staff. Are all staff on-board with “family-centred practice” that includes and supports all family members? Is it discussed within teams?
  • Do your policies and procedures support the active inclusion and valuing of all parents?
  • Do you provide inclusive messages at all points of access for parents? (For example, during appointments, when undertaking tests, when taking bookings, in education sessions, during postnatal stays, in written correspondence, etc.)
  • Does your service routinely share information relating to fertility, preconception health, conception, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting with all parents?
  • Do you provide resources for each parent? There are an increasing number of resources available for fathers and non-birthing parents.
  • How do you get information to parents who can’t attend appointments? Do you ask the attending parents to pass written information on? Are both parents on your email lists?
  • Consider how gendered language is used across your health service. Mother-focussed terminology can give the impression that fathers and non-birthing parents do not belong and that the space is primarily reserved for mothers.
  • Take a fresh look at your physical environment, publications, and marketing materials.  Do they reinforce gender stereotypes about families and/or parenting roles? Have you completed an image audit to identify opportunities for improvement?
  • Do you understand what the experience is like for fathers and non-birthing parents at your service? Have you asked?

Key messages for fathers and non-birthing parents

  • Becoming a parent is a significant life transition.
  • The whole family will benefit if you are engaged and informed before conceiving, through pregnancy and when the baby arrives.
  • By being involved you can help improve relationships within your family and contribute to healthier child development.
  • It’s okay to feel uncertain and to ask for help.
  • You will be able to build a strong bond with your child/children.
  • You’re an equally important parent.
  • Each parent will have their strengths, but both are equally capable of providing the care, comfort and support that children need.
  • Your health and wellbeing needs are important to the whole family.
Talking to Dads: Service-level language and communication