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Ban Fathers

October 20, 2009 permalink

Forty years ago reformers encouraged fathers to attend the birth of their children, to increase involvement in the family. Now, when social services is trying to get parents out of the lives of their children, a French doctor suggests banning men from the delivery room.



Men should 'stay away from childbirth' to help women, says expert

Men should stay away from the delivery room because their presence makes childbirth more difficult for women, according to a leading obstetrician, Dr Michel Odent.

By Alastair Jamieson, Published: 7:00AM BST 19 Oct 2009

newborn with mother
More than four in five births in Britain are attended by a male partner, compared to only a handful four decades ago. Photo: GETTY

Pregnant women become more anxious and less able to cope with a natural birth when they sense the nerves of their partners, he said.

Dr Odent said the birth process had become “masculinised” in recent years and that babies’ arrival in the world would be more straightforward if women were left with only a midwife to help them, as used to be the case.

He said the tensions caused by the presence of men at birth could lead to more adrenalin, slowing the production of the hormone oxytocin, which assists effective contractions, making labour longer and more painful and increasing the chance of a caesarean section.

Dr Odent, a French obstetrician working in Britain and who introduced the concept of birthing pools to maternity services in the 1970s, said birth was both easier and faster when male figures were not present.

He will take his controversial message to a student conference organised by the Royal College of Midwives next month.

The National Childbirth Trust expressed some sympathy with his view, saying it was up to prospective parents to choose whether it was appropriate for the father to be present.

More than four in five births in Britain are attended by a male partner, compared to only a handful four decades ago.

Dr Odent, who has also written books on maternity, said: “The ideal birth environment involves no men in general. Having been involved for more than 50 years in childbirths in homes and hospitals in France, England and Africa, the best environment I know for an easy birth is where there is nobody around the woman in labour apart from a silent, low-profile and experienced midwife – and no doctor and no husband, nobody else.”

The damage caused by a male partner’s presence in the labour suite was sometime long-term, he said.

When men witnessed childbirth, it could ruin the sexual attraction between couples, resulting in relationship break-ups. Some men ended up with a male equivalent of postnatal depression, he said.

Duncan Fisher, chief executive of the parenting website Dad Info, criticised the opinion. “Not all men are nervous, and a lot of women would be even more nervous without their partner there,” he said.

Anna Davidson, spokeswoman for the Birth Trauma Association, said: "This seems to be anecdotal rather than based any evidence and, given that there is a shortage of midwives, it doesn't seem a good idea to be putting women in a situation where they could be left on their own."

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust, said: “Thirty or forty years ago we were campaigning for fathers to be allowed to attend the birth and not more than 80 per cent of births are attended by a male partner, with most of the remainder being attended by a mother or sister instead.

“It is really a matter for men and woman to discuss it and decide what they will be comfortable with and what will be safest.

“In particular, some women prefer their partner to be standing next to them at eye level and giving support there rather than putting pressure on them by peering at the business end which is not always the nicest place to be.

“A supportive friend or relative can be just as useful,” she added.

Jeanne Tarrant, a team manager for the Royal College of Midwives said: "We support a mother's right to choose her birth partner during labour. There is no evidence base or research to suggest that a father's presence impedes and interferes with the mother's birth. We will welcome a healthy discussion of these issues at the conference."

Source: Daily Telegraph