I apologize for the provocative title, but this article in the Guardian has stirred up a debate that many people had previously put to bed: Male involvement in pregnancy can weaken paternal bond

Now to be fair, the study doesn't seem to have been released yet, and the article itself is probably a bit suspect. It appears to be more sensationalism than fact.

However, upon doing some Googling, it seems like the issue is far from dead:

Now I had a reasonably positive experience, possibly because I'm quite comfortable being useless when I'm not expected to be useful, and possibly because our daughter was a c-section birth.

I don't think there's one right answer so I'm going to rephrase this question a bit (remember we're always looking for facts and experiences, not opinions, on moms4mom):

What are the pros and cons (for the mother, father, and child) of a father being in the delivery room?

asked 08 Jun '10, 02:12

Scott's gravatar image

Scott ♦♦
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From my perspective, one of the most important parts of my husband being present was knowing someone was there who understood my values and could be my advocate in case something went wrong. In addition, I ended up with an unplanned cesarean which meant I was stuck on the operating table being sewn up right after our son was born. However, my husband was available to stay with our son immediately which was really important to me.

I suspect that if someone is not familiar with what childbirth might entail, it could be fairly traumatizing. We took Bradley classes which is a 12 week course and I felt it did a really good job of explaining the birth process and helping us understand the various ways partners can be involved in the birth (though it focuses on "normal" births). In addition, we both listened to Pregtastic for almost a year which gave him familiarity with a wide variety of birth situations.

However, one of the biggest things I've learned since becoming a parent is there is no one right way for most aspects of parenting. While my husband being in the room was right for us, I'm sure it's not the right decision for everyone.

(And in case you're wondering about my husband's opinion, he says there is no way they could have kept him out of the room nor does he feel damaged from the experience.)


answered 08 Jun '10, 04:22

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Kiesa ♦
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+1 like the comment about not always the right decision

(08 Jun '10, 10:17) K D

The relevant claim is:

The disappointment and feeling of failure experienced by men expecting to have an intimate and proactive role as their baby gestates, only to find their function is largely one of passive support for their partner, can cause emotional shutdown..."Having begun the fathering role already feeling a failure may destroy his confidence"

I am not in a position to speak to that subject professionally, but I can give some thoughts based on my own experience being in the delivery room 5 times:

  • You only feel useless if you fail to prepare to be useful
  • The father need not be passive during the delivery
  • It certainly did not cause an emotional shutdown for me

I'm scratching my head here trying to figure out how the father can view himself as a failure based on being present during delivery. It would seem that if one is so emotionally fragile, lots of other parenting experiences will do far more significant damage than childbirth - such as the first tumble down the stairs or off the bed when the father is supposed to be caring for the child.

Further, as far as I'm concerned, the father is there to support his partner. The love of his life. I could not and would not abandon her during this trial even if all I could do is be present. Turns out there's a ton more than one can do during this difficult and painful experience, but if not, then merely being there would be important to me. I would want to be supportive even if the experience is truly one sided, and had nothing to do with me - such as a difficult meeting with the doctor regarding biopsy results, or while attending the funeral of a loved one.

The article appears to imply that the father/child relationship is more important than the father/mother relationship.

As far as I'm concerned, the father/child relationship can only be enhanced by a strong father/mother relationship.

I will be very interested to read the full paper after it's peer reviewed and published, though.

It seems many others have quite interesting and relevant thoughts on this matter:


It appears that this is the topic he will be presenting at some conference in June 2010, but that the real 2 year long study has just barely begun, and won't be finished until 2012. Perhaps what is being presented is currently underpinned by a very small amount of information and data, and is merely the impetus to begin a larger more comprehensive study.


answered 08 Jun '10, 19:24

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Adam Davis
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"I will be very interested to read the full paper after it's peer reviewed and published, though." - absolutely. While I had many of the same initial reactions you did, I realize it's worth looking at all viewpoints.

(09 Jun '10, 00:52) Scott ♦♦

+1 Comment "as far as I'm concerned, the father/child relationship can only be enhanced by a strong father/mother relationship." I agree

(09 Jun '10, 01:42) K D

+1 - "It would seem that if one is so emotionally fragile, lots of other parenting experiences will do far more significant damage than childbirth", Exactly Adam! I really can't comment further because I read those links last night and found them so incredibly sexist in their generalizations of men that I still feel like I'm going to fly off the handle when I think about it.

(09 Jun '10, 04:34) Neen

A male perspective:

Yes, it is a bit scary to witness the birth. I do not, however, feel any lasting damages :D

I was happy to be able to stand by my wife's side and hold her hand. I was also glad that I could stay with our newborn son, because he had been a bit tangled up in his umbilical cord and needed some oxygen in the first minutes, while my wife was cleaned and stitched up.

Also, holding the new life close to my naked chest for a few minutes right after the birth is one of my fondest memories.


answered 08 Jun '10, 04:56

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Especially with my first, I was scared and having him there eased my fear a bit. I can't imagine not having my husband in the room during something like that.

Also, because I had epidurals, I was unable to move around or sit up. So he was able to do things like get me water/ice chips and set up my computer to play music without taking up a nurse's time.


answered 08 Jun '10, 02:47

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Good points. We were at the hospital for 24 hours and I was able to go and get stuff at various points, which was helpful. However, one of these articles I was reading suggested that this role could have been served better by a female birthing partner rather than a male one.

(08 Jun '10, 10:00) Scott ♦♦

I really didn't have a female option. My MIL had very different opinions on birthing options, my mom was in another state, and my best friend lived more than an hour from the hospital with only one car for her and her husband. Because I was relatively new to the area, there wasn't any one else I felt comfortable enough asking to be there.

(09 Jun '10, 02:12) mkcoehoorn

"Society must be realistic about what men can actually contribute"

That's good for a laugh. I was in the Birth Center for my first two kids being born and I certainly will be there for future, God willing, kids.

Truthfully, there wasn't a lot of chivalry going on during my wife's labor, but what I could contribute (I pretty much just pushed on my wife's spine for a few hours), I did cheerfully.

I don't know what it's like to be a dad without having had of being an active participant in the delivery, so this is only half and answer and I won't make assumptions about what it was like for my dad and all dad's who aren't 'in on it'.

What I do know about men, and how this article makes a bit of sense, is the fact that many dads are forced to be passive in the birth process because of the medical system. Since men like doing things and get in trouble when they fail in protecting their wives. Maybe it would be better to make men active participants in their children's births than relegate them to the sidelines as they watch their wives in agony. Perhaps it's not men in the delivery room that is the problem, perhaps it is the doctors and machines?


answered 10 Jun '10, 02:52

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I think some of the tension, and the push to get men out of the delivery room, is coming from midwives. If you have a midwife there already doing these things, then the few things that the male partner could do are pretty much gone, and I'm sure a midwife would take the stance that he's just "getting in the way". Which may be true...

(10 Jun '10, 10:44) Scott ♦♦

@Scott For my birth, my husband was present but we also had a doula (as well as the standard nurses and doctors). We specifically picked a doula who was comfortable working with my husband. I thought the doula did an excellent job of reminding my husband of the stuff he had learned in childbirth classes and they tag teamed massaging me. I've never worked with a midwife but it seems the same principle as far as comfort measures should be able to apply.

(10 Jun '10, 23:38) Kiesa ♦

Yeah, I was massage man both births, the first birth we had a doula and we both were massagers, the second, it was me and the midwife. By the second birth I was much more confident in my role, as well as sure of my limitations. (and a man's gotta know his limitations)

(11 Jun '10, 19:21) Pete

I don't get the premise at all, it doesn't seem to pass the skeptical sniff test for me. Whatever damage would occur -- what, from the father not having an active enough role? -- during the delivery is surely recapitulated endlessly in the coming months outside the delivery room (fathers can't breastfeed, etc.).

As usual, you have to consider the alternative. I'd be infinitely more concerned about the damage to the spousal bonds from failing to be there with your wife for one of the most scary, dangerous, and profoundly joyful experiences of her life.

I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I think our parents really missed out by not having the fathers present at the delivery.


answered 15 Jun '10, 07:13

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+1 "damage to the spousal bonds from failing to be there" I agree

(15 Jun '10, 08:47) K D

I have experienced both situations. My husband was present for our son's birth (and most of the 36 hour induction/labour process) but however due to our daughter arriving in rather dramatic circumstances he arrived 5 mins after her birth.

From my point of view I would have rather he had been there with me. I saw his role as a person to support me and his presence was calming. In the case of our daughter's birth it the anesthetist who was reassuring me it would be fine.

Both our kids were emergency C-sections and while I was being stiched up they were being checked on the other side of the room, my husband was able to tell me what was happening and reassure me that they were fine. He then brought the baby to me.

So the pros for me as a mum were that he was able to support me and reassure me in a way that would be harder for someone who didn't know me. This was both during and after their birth.

The pros for him were that he says that one of the most emotional moment in his life was answering the question do you have a name? with the kid's name.


answered 08 Jun '10, 10:15

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I was there for the entire 24 hour labour and delivery of our daughter and while I obviously didn't have the central role, I didn't feel left out and I don't think it's affected my relationship with her. If nothing else, I was able to talk to the anesthesiologist about whether or not an epidural made sense - my wife was too zonked out to take part in that discussion.


answered 22 Jun '10, 03:08

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accept rate: 8%

I was there for the birth of both our daughters and I wouldn't have missed it for anything.

With our first, the labour lasted around 12 hours - the majority of which was in the hospital. Not once did I feel that I wasn't needed and once our baby was born, I sat and looked after her whilst my wife went into theatre for a manual removal of the placenta. I would've joined them, but they didn't have scrubs long enough.

Our second baby was meant to be a home birth and I had a lot more involvement in the build up to the actual birth, at times taking over from the midwife helping my wife through the contractions. Complications in the latter stages meant that she had to be rushed to hospital - but the midwives were great and tidied/locked up our house as I accompanied my wife to the hospital in the ambulance. I have to admit, that's the only time during both births that I felt redundant, whilst travelling to the hospital (not driving myself).

In both cases, I found all the medical staff to be very welcoming and encouraged me to be involved in all stages of the birth. From a paternal point of view, in both cases I was the first face our daughters saw as they came into the world - whether or not that's a good thing, I don't know!

We didn't attend any antenatal classes, but I'm fairly open minded and none of the birth surprised/shocked me. I can only say I have full respect for the pain women go through!


answered 06 Jul '10, 22:31

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Asked: 08 Jun '10, 02:12

Seen: 11,076 times

Last updated: 06 Jul '10, 22:31