Updated: May 19
Michele Odent, an influential Doctor from France recently came out with an article suggesting that fathers no longer be present at their child's birth.
Elena has written a letter in response:
It was brought to my attention that Dr. Michel Odent published an article recently that condemns the presence of the father in the delivery room. He states that men are terrified of birth and make the process more difficult for women. While I completely understand his point of view, I also disagree on behalf of hundreds of thousands of men that would not want to miss this amazing opportunity to deliver their babies, or at least be present at birth just because a man of such high rank says so. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Odent’s work and am very grateful for bringing up this subject.
It is a very important issue to consider while making plans for birth.
But it is with great surprise that I read his call for banning dads from the delivery room entirely. I think generalizing in matters of birth and death is not very gratifying. The statement “Men should not be present at birth” is as bad as “Men should be present”. I do understand where he came from, though, as most men are terrified of birth. But so are most women, which explains the skyrocketing rates of c-section and drug use in the delivery room. The fear of birth is a result of people’s own birth trauma and when it is treated successfully then there is no need to panic.
Yes, most men are afraid of birth, but saying that they all should be removed, reminds me of the medical approach of treating a disease by using drugs to reduce the fever. It does not take care of the reasons for the fever; it eliminates the symptoms that are pointing that something is wrong in the body. When the birth trauma was not addressed before the due date, then yes, it is the father of the baby who might be the factor of additional stress for a laboring woman. But so can be her mother, her sister, and her best girlfriend. Fear of birth and thus the ability to project that fear onto a laboring woman, causing her prolonged labor, is not limited to those with a penis. Anyone with the birth anxiety can create a big problem for a laboring woman. Including the doctor and nurses. The fact that they were trained to deal with birth complications does not imply, by any means, that their own birth trauma was addressed and healed. Most of the skills they’ve got in their medical schools helped them to numb themselves to their anxiety, to ‘pave over’ it. But it does not protect the ‘birthing field’ they’re attending to, from being unconsciously influenced by it.
To summarize, - the birthing process can be compromised by anyone who is terrified by it, unconsciously generating complications. That’s why the fewer people (men or women) present (or even know that birth is in progress)- the better for the outcome.
The good news is that when treated intelligently, birth trauma can be minimized and healed successfully, for both genders. This allows the birth process to unfold beautifully with a very high probability of trauma free delivery for everyone involved.
With my sincere wishes of a safe journey to all parents-to-be,