Having been involved in childbirth for 50 years and having been in charge of 15,000 births, Dr. Odent has found that presence of a father in a delivery room is not only unnecessary but also hinders labour.
He’s convinced that the participation of fathers is one of the main reasons for long and difficult labours. And there are a number of basic physiological reasons for this.
Here are his thoughts:
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 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.
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 she needs.
The second reason is that the father’s release of the stress hormone adrenalin as he watches his partner labour causes her anxiety and prevents her relaxing.
It has been proven that it is physically impossible to be in a state of relaxation if there’s an individual standing next to you who is tense and full of adrenalin.
With a man present, a woman cannot be as relaxed as she needs to be during labour. Hence, the process becomes more difficult.
He has also been with many women as they struggled to give birth, with their partner at their side. Yet, the moment he leaves the room, the baby arrives.
After birth, too, a woman needs a few moments with her baby, particularly between the time of birth and when she delivers the placenta.
In order to deliver the placenta easily, her levels of oxytocin – the hormone of love – need to peak.
This happens if she has a moment in which she can forget everything, 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 distractions.
Often, when 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.
But it’s not just the fact that men slow down labour that makes me cautious about their presence at the birth.
There are two other important questions he would like to see answered scientifically.
- Are we sure that all men can easily cope with the strong emotional reaction they have when they participate in the birth?
Some men experience a form of postpartum depression. In its mild form, men take to their bed in the week following the birth, complaining of everything from stomach ache or migraine to a 24-hour bug. Studies found that, rather than admit a low mood, men often offer up a symptom as a reason why they’ve taken to their bed.
- If a man is present at birth, will be the effect on the sexual attraction he feels towards his wife?
When men began standing at their partner’s side in labour, the older generation believed that the couple’s intimate life would be ruined. And, given that the key to eroticism is a degree of mystery, they may have a point.
Even though this doctor makes some very good points, I found that childbirth brought my husband and I together. Some men are a great support system for their wives during the craziness of labor. I guess it’s up to the moms-to-be to determine if their hubby will crumble under the pressure or rise to the occasion.