April 15, 2008


A top obstetrician on why men should NEVER be at the birth of their child (MICHEL ODENT, 15th April 2008, Daily Mail)

[B]y 1970, a handful of women started to ask for their husbands to be present at the birth, a shift that began to occur in many Western countries at about the same time.

There are a variety of reasons for this, including the fact that birth was being increasingly concentrated in hospitals rather than at home, and the rise of the smaller nuclear family meant women increasingly turned to their husbands for support in all areas of their life, rather than relying on their mothers or aunts.

What we didn't anticipate at the time was that this occasional demand from a handful of women would, in a matter of years, become doctrine.

By the late Seventies, all pregnant women were saying they could not imagine giving birth without their husband at their side.

And not only was the husband now nearly always present at birth, but with his wife clasping his hand during labour and screaming out for reassurance, he became an active participant.

At the time, it was widely believed there were many benefits to be had from the father's presence.

It was said sharing such an experience would strengthen ties between the couple and help the father bond with his baby.

It was said his reassurance would make birth easier, and that the rate of intervention in pregnancy would decrease as a result.

This shift to having the father in the delivery room was one which was shrouded by optimism.

However, little scientific study was conducted to find out if there was any truth to these claims.

And even at the time, I had my reservations. I didn't want to judge, but I knew from experience that the presence of a man is not always a positive thing.

Fast-forward to today, and there is still a lack of scientific study on this subject.

But having been in charge of thousands of births, at homes, in hospitals, in the UK, in France, with the father present, with him absent, I have reached my own conclusions.

I am more and more convinced that the participation of the father is one of the main reasons for long and difficult labours.

And there are a number of basic physiological reasons for this.

First, a labouring woman needs to be protected against any stimulation of the thinking part of her brain - the neocortex - for labour to proceed with any degree of ease.

This part of the brain needs to take a back seat and allow the primal "unthinking" part of the brain connected to basic vital functions to take over.

A woman in labour needs to be in a private world where she doesn't have to think or talk.

Yet, motivated by a desire to "share the experience", the man asks questions and offers words of reassurance and advice.

In doing so, he denies his partner the quiet mind that she needs.

The second reason is that the father's release of the stress hormone adrenaline as he watches his partner labour causes her anxiety, and prevents her from relaxing.

No matter how much he tries to smile and appear relaxed, he cannot help but feel anxious. And the release of adrenaline is contagious.

It has been proven that it is physically impossible to be in a complete state of relaxation if there is an individual standing next to you who is tense and full of adrenaline.

The effect of this is that, with a man present, a woman cannot be as relaxed as she needs to be during labour, and hence the process becomes longer and more difficult.

We must keep in mind that mammals cannot release oxytocin - the key hormone in childbirth - when they are also being influenced by the stressful effects of hormones of the adrenaline family.

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.

...but you're three kids too late.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 15, 2008 7:48 PM
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