Dad at the birth – have you got a choice?

I’m writing my pamphlet to accompany our one day Mindful Mamma class and I’ve just worked on the “tips for dads”.  The first thing that gets me thinking, is why is dad there at all?  What happened to the days when he was in the pub, or walking the corridor?  While I’m not condoning that, I happen to think we’ve gone too far the other way.  Dads now HAVE to be there – it’s assumed, just like a hospital birth is sometimes assumed.  Not all dads want to be there.  Not all mums want them there.  Co-incidentally, in the past two months, I’ve spoken to two first time mums who say their main fear is of their beloved partner seeing their “bits” in a less than sexy way.  I’ve also spoken to one dad who says he wants to stay up with mum for the birth of their second child, because he had constant intrusive images of his wife’s nether regions after their first birth.  Sometimes, my job as a doula is to make sure dad stays away from the “business end” of birth.  After all,  mum doesn’t have to see it, so why should dad?  Michel Odent, the leading obstetrician who I mention a lot, goes so far as to say that dads at the birth might be related to the increase in divorces (  One research study has demonstrated that stress amongst dads at birth is way too high, and is related to perceived pressure to be there the birth (Johnson, Keele University).

The Conscious Birth movement, and HypnoBirthing, would absolutely dispute this argument, and say that having dad at the birth is a loving, amazing, unifying celebration of birth, and that dad’s presence is an invaluable support to the mother.  I guess it depends on HOW you go about it.  Our classes give dads techniques for reducing their stress levels during birth, techniques for holding the birthing space (ones which have not been taught or documented anywhere else) and techniques for being a generally very supportive and indispensable human being.

While my job as a doula is to support dad as much as mum (if not more so), it is also to help him to stay away from the “business end” if that’s his choice, or, conversely, to help him see the baby’s head as it emerges, to cut the chord and look at the placenta, if that is his preference.   Some dads love all that – and see it as a priveledge that they can be there.  We are all different, and that is why I think it is a shame that, although dad can choose whether to stay “head end” or go “business end” he can no longer choose NOT to be there without having some explaning to do.

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