About the project


The birth of a new baby can be the happiest time in a dads' life. But getting ready for the new arrival can be difficult. All of the changes after the birth can also be hard to manage. This is a time when dads are usually very busy and they may not have support available. When stress builds up dads may not know where to go or who to ask. Even with the internet there are so many options that it is not easy to find the right information.

SMS4dads provides new fathers with information and connections to online services through their mobile phones. The text messages with tips, information and links to other services help fathers understand and connect with their baby and support their partner. The expected date of delivery or date of birth, which is entered at enrolment, ensure that the texts are linked to the developmental stage of the baby (from week 12 of the pregnancy until 24 weeks post birth). Many texts use the ‘voice’ of the baby, for example, ‘Talk to me about anything dad. Your words will help my brain development’ others suggest actions ‘Find ways to tell your partner she is doing an amazing job. This could be really important to her’.

Example Messages

Message sparks for dads

- A father may receive a message saying...

Babies often cry more at 4 to 6 weeks
after birth than at any other time.
Can you think of extra ways to support
your partner at this time?
[Txt STOP to OptOut]

- Some messages will contain liks to
other sources of information

Did you know that dads can be
affected by post-natal depression?
For some info check out
[Txt STOP to OptOut]

Texts, which include links to online resources, also prompt fathers to monitor health behaviours (diet, exercise, social connection) and every three weeks fathers receive a ‘How’s it going?” interactive text. Dads can reply with Awesome or Cool or OK or Shaky or Bad. ‘Bad’ responses are escalated to receive a telephone call from a national perinatal mental health help line. Fathers’ acceptance of the messages (Texting ‘STOP’ removes participants from the program), their use of links and response to ‘How’s it going?’ texts are recorded. Fathers are offered an exit interview and mothers are invited to give their perceptions of how SMS4dads worked for their partners.

Results to date ...

Results from the feasibility study are encouraging. Of the 520 enrolled, 22% indicated distress (scoring above 13 on the Kessler 6 scale) and 87% received all messages. Distressed fathers completed as often as non-distressed and used links as often (67% clicked on at least one link). Almost half of participants (46%) responded to the 'How's it going' questions, however less than 1% (13) indicated 'bad' in their response. Evaluations on exit were overwhelmingly positive with 92% indicating that SMS4dads had helped them in their transition to becoming fathers and 83% responded that the program had helped their relationship with the mother. The feasibility study completed in August 2016 and efficacy study is now underway.

Dads can enrol in SMS4dads from anytime in the pregnancy or up until 3 months post-birth. They will receive messages until the baby is 12 months old.

The Family Action Centre, at the University of Newcastle has been funded by beyondblue and Movember to conduct the research.

For more info...
Dr Richard Fletcher ph 02 49216401