Should Dad *Really* be in the Delivery Room?

It seems that some Dads can be clueless as to proper delivery room etiquette, as displayed in a recent post, “What NOT to Do While Your Wife is in Labor.” It might be bad enough that some women just want him OUT. Nevertheless, these days it seems almost sacrilegious to suggest that daddy not be present at the birth of his child.

Should men be allowed to witness their children’s birth?  This controversial question seems to be one that depends heavily on each spouse’s temerpament and ability to cope with pain and stress. While many women would never consider giving birth without their husbands, there must be many more who wish he wasn’t there. Conversely, while some dads would be devastated at missing the birth of their child, there are others who would secretly breath a huge sigh of relief at being excluded.

“Barely survived the delivery” Tshirt by Zazzle

I came across a very interesting article by Michel Odent, a top obstetrician, on why men should NEVER be at the birth of their child. You can take a look at it here, and it is an interesting read, whether or not you agree with him.

Dr. Odent states: Having been involved in childbirth for 50 years, and having been in charge of 15,000 births, I have reached the stage where I feel it is time to state what I – and many midwives and fellow obstetricians – privately consider the obvious… That there is little good to come for either sex from having a man at the birth of a child.

Personally, I have delivered two babies in the presence of my husband, and was a wonderful source of support and comfort to me. I also think it was a positive experience for him (although maybe I’ll ask him about that later, just to clarify!).  Then again, I gave birth in relative comfort (I have to say I love that epidural) but I’m sure it would have been a much more stressful experience for both of us if I’d done it without.

Dr. Odent talks about his observations as to why it is better that husbands stay out of the delivery room, and let their wives birth in peace. The phenomena of men being present at childbirth is relatively recent, beginning in the 70’s, as more and more women started to give birth in the hospital. Up until that point, it was mainly a woman’s event, with the mother surrounded by other women including her mother, aunts, sisters, or midwives. The husband was left to boil the water, pace the hallway, and smoke his pipe.

Although there is a lack of scientific study on this subject, Dr. Odent has observed that often men are a hindrance to the ease of his wife’s labor, causing it to be are longer, more painful and more likely to result in intervention.

This may be for two reasons. One, a woman in labour needs to be in a quiet, private world where she doesn’t have to think or talk.  When she tries to “share the experience”, with her husband, the focus is taken off her personal experience and directed toward including, intuiting, and often soothing, her husband.  This complicates the process.

The second reason is that, quite naturally, the sight of his wife in pain causes dad to release the stress hormone adrenaline.  No matter how much he tries to appear relaxed and positive, he cannot help but feel anxious.  And anxiety, even hidden under a reassuring smile, is contagious. His tension prevents the woman from being as relaxed as she needs to be during labor, making the process longer and more difficult.

Then there is the affect that childbirth has on the father. No doubt the miracle of childbirth is something beautiful and uplifting, a family bonding experience that some men wouldn’t give up for anything.

But for others, the experience may be more traumatic than they’ll admit. Dr. Odent  says that over the years he has seen something akin to post-natal depression in many men who have been present at the birth.  This will cause them to exhibit strange behaviors, like take to bed for a week after the baby is born, leaving their wives to care for the newborn. Or, they may try to escape to the golf course or local bar.  In extreme cases, the experience may even cause deeper psychological damage, or lead to divorce or the father abandoning his family.

One last point that Dr. Odent makes, is that there are some things we prefer to do in private, in order to preserve a degree of modesty and mystery.”And,” adds Dr. Odent, “For the benefit of our sex lives, it may be worth adding childbirth to this list.”  I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point…

He sums it up by saying, “It is time to go back to basics, and turn modern convention on its head.  When it comes to the delivery suite, men would be well advised to stay away.”

These observations are based on one man’s personal experiences, and not on large scientific studies. But it doe give you something to think about! What’s your opinion?

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