About the project


It's a simple idea.
Dad's are really busy before and after
the birth - there is no way they'll come to lots of
parenting classes... but they do have mobile phones.

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 20 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...

Although it is noisy in here I will
be able to hear your voice from about
20 weeks. Try telling me about the things
we will do together
[Txt STOP to OptOut]

- Some messages will contain liks to
other sources of information

If you’ve been at work
all day you might be able to
support mum by taking me
out for a walk dad. This will
give us more time to get
to know each other.
[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.

It helped my partner to feel part of the "baby process", and that his experiences were also important. This made for a more cohesive family unit. The messages gave us both confidence and helped to avoid fights when extreme fatigue set in.

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.

The SMS4dads Feasibility study and the SMS4dads Randomised Controlled Trial were funded by beyondblue with donations from Movember.

Developing SMS4dads ...

• A pilot SMS4PerinatalParents is underway in Queensland sending messages to mothers with severe mental illness and their partners.
• A SMS4dads Version II has been launched in South Australia, funded by the Government of South Australia via the Mental Health Commission.
• A SMS4Families trial with messages for mothers and fathers has commenced with a Primary Health network in Victoria.
• A pilot study using SMS4dads with young Aboriginal fathers has been completed as part of the Stayin’ on Track project with funding from The University of Newcastle and The Young & Well Research Co-operative.
• A pilot study SMS4dnm sending messages to mothers and fathers has been trialled in the Hunter valley, NSW.

For professionals

• Brief video presentations giving an idea of SMS4dads are available.
• Professionals can enrol in a ‘SMS4dads taster’ that sends participants a selection of messages over a three week period.
• Flyers are available as pdf or jpg to print and distribute.
• A video animation explaining the Mood Tracker is available.
• Papers published on the project are available.

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