By MIA FREEDMAN
Look, I’ll be honest. My husband wasn’t much use in the delivery room. It wasn’t his fault. He just didn’t have much to do other than provide moral support and hold my hand.
You see, I’ve never really got into the whole “we’re pregnant” philosophy that some couples embrace.
I’ve always looked at it like this: We are having a baby. I am pregnant.
We are becoming parents. I am pushing a large object into the world through my vagina.
There’s no ‘we’ in episiotomy.
But there’s also no way in the world I would have wanted my partner to be anywhere other than by my side when I gave birth. We never had a conversation about it because it just never occurred to me. I think it’s a generational thing.
My Dad wasn’t there when I was born in the 70s. Men just weren’t. It was women’s business and men stayed outside the delivery suite. He still recalls sitting nervously in the waiting room with his brother when the doctor came out. “Mr Freedman?” he asked.
“Yes,” said my uncle automatically, standing up. “Congratulations!” boomed the doctor. “You’re the father of a bouncing baby girl.”
20 years later, he actually would be. As his daughter Sylvia tells it:
“Not only was my Dad in the delivery room, he delivered me! I feel blessed that my gorgeous dad was there – he supported my mum, snipped me a great belly button AND I’m lucky enough to have one of the most beautiful moments of my life captured on film – my adoring dad holding me and singing me happy birthday just seconds after I was born. I honestly think his presence and involvement in my birth largely contributes to our incredible bond. He was right there when I was brought into the world! I would be heartbroken if the most important man in my life missed a moment like that or worse still was BANNED from being there.”
But a leading French obstetrician has caused a massive controversy by making an impassioned plea for men to stay out of the delivery room. For the sake of the mother, the baby and the father’s future mental health and sex life.
Let’s break this down.
Physically, Dr Michel Odent (who did not attend the birth of his own three children) says it slows down labour:
“I have been with many women as they struggle to give birth with their partner at their side. Yet the moment he leaves the room, the baby arrives. Afterwards, they say it was just “bad luck” he wasn’t there the moment their child was born.
Luck, however, is little to do with it. The truth is that without him there, the woman is finally able to relax into labour in a way that speeds up delivery.
After birth, too, a woman needs a few moments alone with her baby, particularly between the time the child is born and she delivers the placenta. And this is not just about her need to bond with her baby.
Physically, in order to deliver the placenta with ease, her levels of oxytocin – the hormone of love – need to peak. This happens if she has a moment in which she can forget everything about the world, save for her baby, and if she has time in which she can look into the baby’s eyes, make contact with its skin and take in its smell without any distractions.
Often, as soon as a baby is born, men cannot help but say something or try to touch the baby. Their interference at this key moment is more often than not the main cause for a difficult delivery of the placenta, too.”
And emotionally, Michel Odent says the trauma of watching his partner give birth can trigger a type of post-natal depression in men. Really.
Generally speaking, I have noticed that the more the man has participated at the birth and the worse his wife’s labour has been, the higher the risks of post-natal “symptoms” are.
Of course, this is not the case for all men, but it seems without doubt that some men are at risk of being unwell or depressed due to having seen their partners labour.
The final risk, he says, is sexual. That men will not be able to remain sexually attracted to a woman after seeing her vagina used for non sexy jobs. Oh that ol’ chestnut. Let’s revisit it, shall we? Michel Odent claims: