Friday, May 13, 2011

Father's Presence During Labor: Help or Hindrance?

I've recently come across some interesting quotes. Michel Odent and Grantly Dick Read are both prominent obstetricians in natural birth circles and have spoken and written extensively in support of natural physiological birth. However, they don't agree on everything. Take a look at these opposing viewpoints:

‎"When a woman in labor knows that she will not be disturbed, that her questions will be answered honestly and every consideration given her, then she will be better able to relax and give birth with her body’s neuromuscular perfection intact. The presence of her loving husband and/or a supportive attendant will add to her feelings of security and peace, so she can center upon the task at hand." ~Grantly Dick Read

"The most common cause for a long and difficult labor is the presence of the baby's father." ~Michel Odent, M.D.

‎"When you are in hard labor, remember that the length of labor is usually proportional to the number of people around. Avoid the presence of anybody who might release adrenaline. The best situation I know for an easy birth is when there is nobody else around than an experienced, motherly and silent midwife who does not behave like a guide or an observer." ~Michel Odent, M.D.

So what do you think? Which is it? Is the father's presence during labor comforting and beneficial to the process, or does it detract and possibly hinder it?

When I was in labor I always felt comforted by my husband's presence and support. Even simply having him in the room with me helped me relax more deeply and feel more comfortable and at ease, but having him right next to me, touching me, was even better. Of course, if he'd been busy watching football or playing video games it would have definitely detracted and caused more stress for me. The key for me was having his focus on me during that time, and he has always done that very well.

What are your thoughts? What's been your experience?


  1. I can understand why some labors have lasted longer with the father attending. There are numerous situations I can think of that would contribute to this. But I think with most couples where the husband knows how strong his partner is and values the birth process in the same way she does makes for a couple prepared to handle birthing together. I can't image not having my husband there.

  2. I read an article awhile ago that indicated that one of the highest reasons women get epidurals is "partner preference". I thought that was really interesting. I think that it is good for men to be there but I also think it is really hard when they aren't educated about what is going to happen or what they can do to help. I think lots of men are more terrified of birth than women are. I know that I had a doula client who I was pretty sure would have wanted a natural birth but her husband was really adamant that she should get the epidural. He didn't want the burden of having to try to support her when he didn't know how. I think that if men are going to be there they need to be given "jobs" to help so that they don't feel overwhelmed or scared by the whole process.

  3. I can understand, to an extent. I remember my husband being worried and determined not to put me through that again, during my first labour. He didn't end up being in the same room when I birthed our second child, because our son had awoken and he needed to calm him. I was fine, though I think I would've been fine either way. He's talked about catching the next one, if possible, now that he knows what happens and is fully on board with natural home birth. He knows how I labour, and he also knows that, given my history of fast labours, he might have to catch the next one. ;-)

  4. I feel like the biggest bitch saying this but my husband was not helpful at all or any comfort to me during my labor or deliver. Looking back having him in there was probably not a good thing. I'm REALLY struggling with whether I do or don't want him to be there for the labor and delivery of this child.

  5. My husband was present during my births. In retrospect, I wish I had been alone. I trusted him to keep the doctors to the birth plan and not let them harm me...he completely caved on all issues. Had I been alone, I would have been expecting and prepared to advocate for myself.

  6. I'm really torn on this one. I have loved the support my husband has given me with my previous 7 births, but for some reason I fantasize about a solo birth. I guess a part of me just wants to experience birth with absolutely no interference from anyone. I want to be able to listen to my own instincts and the Spirit guiding me. I'm much too susceptible to others' suggestions, even when they don't match my own instincts. I've definitely had enough births with too many people around watching me and bugging me. With my last birth, it even bugged me when my husband would watch me. I felt liked a watched pot. When the labor took so long I also felt a pressure to perform--like I needed to do something to get the baby born faster. In reality my baby just needed to take her time because of her short cord. And then after the birth I don't want anyone taking my baby away from me until I'm ready--even if it's my huband!

    But then I think, how could I deny my husband the experience of helping and seeing his child born? I would also love the increased closeness that comes to a couple who experience a birth with just the two of them. Assuming I ever get pregnant again, I'll just have to wait and see how I feel about it all then.

  7. Bonnie, I have many of the same thoughts and feelings as you do. My husband is a great source of support and strength during labor and birth, but I'm realizing that in the past I've leaned on other people too much for support. Since I'm considering unassisted birth in the future I'm very curious about how different labor might be if I'm left completely alone. The concept is very inviting, but I would want my husband to at least be in the next room in case I need him.

  8. I can't imagine NOT having him there with me, but in my last labor, I just sent him over to the little bed in the room and had him try and get some sleep (since it was 1AM). I had planned on having a cousin and a sister come (as doula-type people), and having my husband help me through labor. Once I was in the situation though, I didn't call any of my support people, besides my husband, since I didn't feel a need to have other people there . . . one time I called him from his bed to come hold my hand during a contraction. It felt good. Then the next contraction came, and I banished him back to the bed and just wanted to be alone again :-) I was really surprised to find how solitary I wanted to be. But when it came to pushing, I definitely wanted him right there (although, I only pushed for 30 seconds, so it didn't really matter!) :-)