Oh dear, it's been quite the week for British men in the business of delivering babies.
First, as reported by The Daily Telegraph, midwife Denis Walsh tells women that that they're taking the easy way out by choosing epidurals and pain relieving drugs during labour. Now, it's obstetrician Michel Odent's turn to spark controversy.
According to news.com.au, Dr Odent argues that men shouldn't be present when their partner gives birth.
"..a labouring woman needs to be protected against any stimulation of the thinking part of her brain, the neocortex, for labour to proceed with any ease...Yet, motivated by a desire to "share the experience'', the man asks questions and offers words of reassurance and advice. In doing so, he denies his partner the quiet mind she needs.
The second reason is that the father's release of the stress hormone adrenalin as he watches his partner labour causes her anxiety and prevents her relaxing...With a man present, a woman cannot be as relaxed as she needs to be during labour. Hence, the process becomes more difficult."
He also questions whether men are able to "easily cope with the strong emotional reaction they have when they participate in the birth", claiming he has seen "something akin to post-natal depression in men present at birth."
And finally, Dr Odent worries what the effect of a man's attendance at birth will have on the sexual attraction he feels towards his partner.
"When men began standing at their partner's side in labour, I remember my mother's generation saying that the couple's intimate life would be ruined. And, given that the key to eroticism is a degree of mystery, I'm left believing they had a point."
Look, I'm not going to get on my soapbox here and yell about what an idiot this guy is. I dare say there'll be a looooooong queue of woman waiting to do just that. What I will do is offer my own experience of birth.
For me, labour was an out-of-body experience. For most of the 14 hours I was in labour with Olivia, I existed in a hazy world of pain and wasn't aware of much else. Occasionally, I remember Drew would tell me to breathe and I would get pissed off at him and say "No!" but, for most of the time, it was just me and my contractions.
When things turned bad and an emergency caesar became the only option, THAT is when I really needed him. Because you don't want to face something like that alone...and I wouldn't even think of trying to.
Yes, I'm sure he found it traumatic. I know I did...but mothers don't really have the option to not be present at the birth.
And I'm sure he looked at me differently afterwards...but in a positive way. I was the woman who had endured intense pain for hours and undergone surgery to give him his first beautiful girl. There was admiration, awe and gratitude. Our relationship evolved.
To say that men don't belong in the delivery room is, I think, an insult to them. Yes, the woman carries the child. Yes, she is the one who ultimately has to give birth. But bringing a child into the world involves two parties - not just at the moment they take their first breath, but for the rest of their life. Shouldn't we start the way we mean to finish?
So, now it's over to you...should birth be a solo or team sport?
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