Posted by: brambledoula | April 16, 2008


I usually respect Dr. Odent to a degree that I don’t afford many obstetricians, however I’m confused by his recent statement that fathers should not be allowed to watch their wives give birth.

I have to comment on sections of this myself:

But 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

Um, so he, as a man, has attended 15,000 births but doesn’t feel men should be at a birth? uh huh.

For her, his presence is a hindrance, and a significant factor in why labours are longer, more painful and more likely to result in intervention than ever.

So no woman has ever been helped by Bradley method then? (Husband coached birth) And of course male obstetricians have nothing to do with this right?

As for the effect on a man – well, was I surprised to hear a friend of mine state that watching his wife giving birth had started a chain of events that led to the couple’s divorce?

Ok this I can almost see, but I would imagine that the delivery was more of a link in the chain as opposed to the beginning of the chain, and certainly not applicable to all deliveries.

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

There are and I’ve seen them. Deliveries where the husband not only attends but actively helps usually go faster, and with less intervention. I have seen where a long labor suddenly picks up and mom delivers once dad becomes involved.

Let me digress here for a second to add that most pof the couples iI work with dad wants to be involved and/or as very aware and supportive of mom’s birth wishes. I have heard of cases of mom having a ough go when dad sides with the doctor against her which brings me back to wondering about male obs at birth, not so much dad.

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

There’ some, and except for this article all that I’ve seen has been in favor of dad attending. Even in most UC circles except for those who believe mom should birth entirely alone, dad’s participation is usually emphasized.

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’d like to see this data organized scientifically and not anecdotally. I would also like to know extenuating factors such as amount of hospital pressure for intervention, was dad given rights such as to catch his own baby or conversely to leave if he did feel uncomfortable , and the amount of doctor influence here. Is this a case of doctor trying to take over dads role?

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.

To a certain extent, I agree.

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

So do doctors, nurses, beeping machines, children, doula, other family, etc. This isn’t restricted to men.

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.

I find this a broad generalization.

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.

This I do agree with but I think this again goes for all attendants not just dad. In fact I think it most applies to nursery staff rushing baby unnecessarily to a warmer or doctor between moms legs providing traction on a placenta or stitching a tear…

Physically, in order to deliver the placenta with ease, her levels of oxytocin – the hormone of love – need to peak.

Which can happen kissing her husband, breastfeeding, hugging, holding baby, etc

Often, as soon as a baby is born, men cannot help but say something or try to touch the baby.

Wow, turns out it’s their baby too!

The first is, are we sure that all men can easily cope with the strong emotional reaction they have when they participate in the birth?

Of course ALL men can’t just as ALL women can’t, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t men who CAN.

Over the years, I have seen something akin to post-natal depression in many men who have been present at the birth.

I’ve seen this as well but almost entirely in cases where mom had a rough go of it.

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.

Of course, it would not be possible for women to give birth alone.

Er, why not, you state that your wife did, and many women choose to.

At the present time, when birth is more difficult and longer than ever, when more women need drugs or Caesareans, we have to dare to smash the limits of political correctness and ask whether men should really be present at birth.

I’m going to have to conclude my response with repeating that if we’re going to generalize with the word men then this will have to go for the male obs as well!!



  1. I liked having my husband there. He acted as my advocate when I could not advocate for myself, and he wasn’t worried about hurting the nurses feelings like I was!

  2. I think from what I’ve seen, most women will agree with you as well. Like I said I was really confused by this article!! I do think husbands should be given a choice, by their wives, whether to be there or not, but to outright say, without any kind of study done, that men shouldn’t be there? (It’s killing me I saw a study once that stated husbands being actively involved in their baby’s birth can shorten labor by as much as 10 hours and I can’t find the darn thing so I didn’t add it to my comments. Gr. Still I find that a pretty darn significant finding.)

  3. I would hate to have to give birth without the man I love more than anything in the world by my side. It only makes sense. This guy’s far too old-school. 😉

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