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For decades, we’ve taken for granted husbands being in the room when their wives deliver. Many of us believe that dads’ presence is important to supporting moms during childbirth, and to affirming fathers’ central roles in their children’s lives.

Despite men’s now commonplace birth attendance, Michael Odent, a French obstetrician known as the first doc to invite dads into labor and delivery, did a 180 on his earlier stance. In an interview with the British press a few years ago, Odent claimed that women are happier, and healthier, when they give birth without male partners.

Why? Men’s presence constrains women’s willingness to let go and scream. Plus Odent, an avid proponent of natural childbirth, blames husbands’ inability to emotionally handle their wives’ labor pains for increased epidurals and caesareans.

From a Relationship Coach perspective, the core issue is less whether or not Odent is right, and more: What do couples want for their birth experience?
A study from Sweden claims that, while most men attended childbirth classes, some found their secondary status challenging. Their childbirth questions were ignored or redirected to moms and, the study found, dads lacked a forum for their own fears.

I can’t help but wonder about Odent’s claim of men’s impact on epidurals and C-sections, and whether, if true, it might be related to (most) men not being invited to express, or get support for, their fears concerning their spouses’ wellbeing during childbirth.

How can these issues, or some of them, be avoided?

Here are a few pre-birth tips:

  • It’s not just expecting moms who struggle with fear about birth, so take time before the due date for both of you to acknowledge that your fears aren’t just okay, they’re completely normal.
  • Go a step further and create a space to discuss those fears about birth and parenting. Think your spouse won’t chat with you about these issues? Then encourage him (or her) to speak to someone else, e.g., a friend, colleague, or Life Coach.
  • Expecting moms can ask childbirth instructors and members of their medical/birthing team to include expecting dads as much as possible, at various stages of the process, including pre-birth, e.g., at ultrasound appointments.

Ask The Tough Questions

Ask yourselves and each other birth-prep questions centered on your relationship (vs. the mechanics of childbirth). Even if you make up your answers, just asking the questions gives each other room to express best-case wishes and, hopefully, the ability to reference those wishes the real birth process turns out differently than planned.

Questions to ask…

If I were to imagine the best birth experience, in emotional terms (let’s just assume the physical goes great), what would I want my spouse to experience?
 
If I were to imagine the best birth experience for me, in emotional terms (assume the physical goes great), what would I want to experience?
 
Ideally, what role would I want my spouse to play in my experience?
 
Best-case scenario, how do we want to feel about each other during the birth process?
 
What can we do to create the atmosphere we both want for the birth process? (e.g., playing music we love, taping our favorite photos on the wall, etc.)
 
What do we want to remember about our relationship, if everything we want for ourselves, and each other, flies out the window during the birth process?
 
For couples who consider, or really want to consider, the birth of their child a team effort—with delivering moms clearly leading the charge!—finding ways to ensure spouses, too, are consciously integrated into the process and invited to share their feelings, especially before childbirth, is not only important to us individually, but also to our relationship together.