pregnancy

Doctor says: Men should NEVER watch women give birth.

Do men belong in the delivery room?

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.

See? Different.

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:

Dr Michel Odent says Dads should stay away from births

“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:

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When men first started standing at their partner’s side during labour, I remember my mother’s generation saying, very matter of factly, that the couple’s intimate life would be ruined as a result.

And, given that the key to eroticism is a degree of mystery, I am left believing they had a point. There are many things we do in private in order to preserve a degree of modesty and mystery. And, for the benefit of our sex lives, it may be worth adding childbirth to this list.

Oh please. I find that the male sex drive tends to be pretty resilient. Men tend to be excellent at building bridges over any kind of obstacle – mental or physical – to sex and skipping merrily over it. Tra la la.

Baby? What baby. I never saw a baby come out of there.

I’m also inclined to believe that any man whose attraction to their partner is superficial enough be destroyed by watching her perform nature’s most extraordinary act is a bit of a dick and needs to take a long hard look at himself.

For what it’s worth, I do find it amusing when men talk nervously about wanting to stay ‘up the nice end’. As if the distance between a woman’s face and vagina is so great that to traverse it, he must hail a cab. Guess what buddy? Move your eyes just a little and boom! There you go.

But has the pendulum swung too far? Do some men have valid reasons for not wanting to watch? When I asked my Facebook friends about this, one replied that she and her partner had decided he wouldn’t be there for her c-section because he was a fainter.

She explained: “Having experienced him going green and sliding off furniture in the lead up towards the baby, he wanted what was best for me – and that wasn’t him on the floor and the nurses stepping over him! My sister was with me before and during the Caesar and I was happy that he was there for the baby while they sorted me out after complications.

“We knew it was right for us and I was absolutely fine with it but we were stunned and disappointed at how much criticism we got from friends, male and female, saying things like ‘oh don’t be a woos’ and ‘he must be supportive’. Interesting that they didn’t say ‘it’s your call, fair enough, as long as you and the baby are ok, you have to do what you’re comfortable with etc’.

Fair point. Fainters should be exempt. And if you are both truly comfortable with the idea of him not being there? Of course. It shouldn’t be compulsory. Nothing pertaining to vaginas should be compulsory is a good principle to live by, I find.

However.

If it’s simply a fear that it might be messy or unpleasant or awkward or scary or unsexy?

Well harden up, buddy. Birth is all of those things but so is life. And you’re not the one who’s going to be walking out of there with stitches in your delicate areas or your bodily fluids in a puddle on the floor.

The best things in life are messy and real and incredible. Like eating a mango. Or having sex. Not hermetically sealed and tied up neatly with a bow.

You want to miss the birth of your child for superficial reasons? Your loss. Your enormous great gaping loss.

Did your father attend your birth? If you have kids, was your partner there?

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