It's a debate as old as...well, the 1960s. And in recent decades, the father's place in the delivery room has become sacrosanct - indeed, Iran just lifted a ban on men in the delivery room in the hopes that women would become more comfortable and natural birth would become more common. But now there are new voices challenging the status quo, including the rather inflammatory French obstetrician Michel Odent, who feels men actually harm the process. The good doctor will be debating the issue at the Royal College of Midwives.
Pros: Teamwork, solidarity, comfort, and the little fact that some fathers might want to see their children born, too. "With husbands coaching, we have more than 90% totally unmedicated births. No other approach comes near to that figure," says Robert Bradley, who was an early advocate of present fathers.
Cons: As Dr. Odent would have it, "the masculinisation of the birth environment". His argument?
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 when there is nobody around the woman in labour apart from a silent, low-profile and experienced midwife...Oxytocin is the love drug which helps the woman give birth and bond with her baby. But it is also a shy hormone and it does not come out when she is surrounded by people and technology. This is what we need to start understanding.
However, is barring men from the delivery room, 1950s-style, really the solution? Surely it's an individual choice, right? And while nothing should be automatic - it's a conversation that bears having - is a convent-like level of silence the alternative? If we're going to bar anything, maybe it's video cameras that should be on the table - they're notoriously unsupportive. And the strongest argument? Moms don't seem that grateful for Dr. Odent's concern.
Top OB: Keep Men Out Of Delivery Room [StrollerDerby]