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Monday, 24 January, 2000, 12:00 GMT
Should fathers be barred from the delivery room?

Men who hold their partners' hand through childbirth were once revered as sensitive and caring, but they're now being branded a nuisance.

An expert claims anxious men risk passing their concerns on to their partner. In his view their rational way of thinking is inappropriate at a time when women are going through an intensely emotional experience.

Do you think men are a pain in the labour ward? Send us your views and experiences.

Your reation:

It should be up to the couple but I do know that I could never have gone through the pain without my husband.
Umme, France

I was present at the delivery of our first two children in hospitals in North London, I was in fact neutral in my view, but my wife was eager for me to be present and her wishes came first not those of a doctor, nurse or official. The experience was invaluable, since when our third child arrived, circumstances forced me to perform the delivery, something I would have been unable to deal with had I not participated previously. Let's not forget that it is we the public that pay for the NHS, they are providing us with a service that we pay for, in my view, if the woman wants her partner present then that is the deciding factor.
Hugh Gleaves, UK

Banned by whom? Who should have more say in this than the principals who started it in the first place? Around here, the couple having the baby are the ones paying for it. It is their decision to have the child delivered in hospital, or at home. This looks like a case of meddling by people who ought to be seeing to what they are being paid to do.
Jim, Texas

The delivery room for the baby is for the family. The rights of the husband, the parents of the wife and the husband are to receive the new member of the family.
Catharine Hannover, Reno, Nevada/USA

Nine months ago our son was born after a 37 hour labour, afterwards both my wife and I were knackered and drained. But what was one of the most traumatic experiences of our lives was also one of the most special. There is no way I would have wanted my wife to go through that alone. If fathers are banned then we miss out on one of the key experiences of life. Our wives need us to be there and to be strong especially in a prolonged and difficult birth.
Steve & Aly Williamson, UK

I sometimes am utterly puzzled by Anglo-Saxon minds. I really do not see this discussion taking place in continental Europe. Should not this matter be decided and discussed by the mother and the father of the child? Why should it be regulated? Is it not a dreadful generalisation to characterise genders as being this or that way? If a mother feels that her partner/father of the child should be present and if the latter wishes that too, why should it even be discussed? I must say that I really find debating this issue senseless.
Luis Amorim, Belgium

For much of her first labour and all of the second and third my wife used TENS equipment to relive pain. Although the nursing/midwifery staff approved fully they were not allowed (thanks to bureaucracy) to apply the machines. This was a small part of what I did in the room, but could not have happened were I not there. I was also able to support (literally) my wife during an extended attempt to apply an epideral towards the end of the first, long labour. Having attended most NCT sessions with her, I was able to assist in routine tasks, run errands and give instruction, whilst being ready to move out of the way when necessary. I believe that being present leaves me much closer to my children than might otherwise have been the case. It is also clear that this is not for everyone, but surely we should at least have the option to be there if that is what our partner wants.
Bob Beaupre, England

No wonder the UK National Health has serious problems when their nurses have nothing else to do but bring out such subjects. Leave it up to the couple.
Jerath, USA

I am a male nurse and happily stayed away from my children's birthing. I believe the act of delivery was always and should always be a woman's realm. The time I spent with my wife whilst waiting and holding her hand saw her resolve falter and she tried to rely on me but I had no control over proceedings and felt thoroughly useless.
Alan R Taylor, UK

Call me a cynic if you like. But I have always felt that the fad for having husbands in the delivery room is just a feminist scam to make men feel guilty. In most societies men are separated from women when they give birth and for the best of reasons. It is high time this throw back to 60's went the same way as socialism and flared trousers.
Alan Tyne, UK

I think fathers AND mothers should be barred from the 'delivery room'. They should both be at home where they would find that the birth would be far less painful and more relaxed. Thus, the father does not have to listen to his wife screaming in agony, he merely has to enjoy the ecstasy of birth, as it should be. Afterwards, the couple will feel far closer both to each other and the new baby than they would have done had the birth occurred in a so-called 'delivery room'.
Julie Newbold, UK

This Doctor must be mad, I pity his wife, I know that I would love to have my husband present at the birth of our child when the time comes. I feel its a time of bonding for mother, father and baby whether or not the father causes a hindrance. It would be a sad day if we had to go back to the way it was before, when expectant fathers had to wait in the waiting room.
Tracey Bowditch, England

When I had each of my 2 children, my husband was present in the delivery room. At the time, I felt that he was my protector (in my helpless state) with respect to the hospital system. The benefit I gained from his presence was not limited to the actual delivery. Because he intended to be present, he took pregnancy classes with me, which benefited us both. Knowing he would be present was a source of comfort to me during my entire pregnancy. During the actual delivery, my husband was of very little "use" except to hold my hand, and take joy in the birth of his children. He had a right to be there, and I'm glad he was.
Judith Bardell, USA

I am due my first baby in May and I think it is important that my husband be there. This is a part of him as much as it is me. Again this is someone that has never experienced becoming a parent or knowing the joys that is entails. Keep your nose out of it. If the person in question wants her partner there then so be it.
Catherine, USA

Our first child is due in April; I am more likely to divorce my husband if he did not attend the birth. I think a couple should be able to share the moment - if that is what both partners want.
Mrs S Leat, UK

I think men should be at the birth of their children. My dad was away in Northern Ireland when I was born, and didn't see me until I was 4 months old. He was at the birth of my younger brother and he does treat us differently. Whenever he phones, it's always have you heard from Simon, I've brought Simon this, does Simon like that....
I was at the birth of my daughter and I can understand why we are treated different, I'd give my life for my daughter, seeing her come into this world, I would kill or die for her, I guess that's what it's like for my dad.
Peter Hunt, UK

I was present during my partner's emergency caesarean - it's not for the faint hearted but I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Lee Johnson, UK

My grandfather spoke to me about the birth of my son and his first great-grandson, he asked if I was present because it wasn't even an option when my father was born. He simply arrived home from work to find a note on the table saying his wife had taken herself to the cottage hospital. Next day he went to work where he received a phone call to inform him he had his first son. He completed his days work and then cycled to the hospital.
He wasn't present for any of his children's births, an action that he said he regretted and the first time that he ever fed a bottle to a baby was in his 80's with my son on his lap.

Both of my children was born via caesarean section. I was with my wife the whole time and was very nervous, it is to be expected. Perhaps, the mother and father to be should be 'counselled' on what will go on in the birthing suite. My wife was scared as both c-sections were emergencies. I don't think that my relationship with my daughters would be as strong if I wasn't there.
Simon, UK

I personally wouldn't like to be involved. It would put me right off sex forever.
John Harkins, New Zealand

I underwent the birth of my first child in hospital, with much frightening clinical intervention and certainly my husband felt without a role or any authority in the delivery room. I felt I had a responsibility to reassure him that everything was going well. I am looking forward to having a homebirth with my second child later this year, where my husband will feel comfortable and authoritative. Men most certainly have a role to play at homebirths - what could be more natural than a woman giving birth at home in the presence of her partner, trusted midwife, supportive women friends and with older children nearby to celebrate the new sibling's arrival?
Claire, UK

What is the world coming to? For god's sake haven't the people who think of these potential rules got anything better to do? Get a life!!! Lets face it if you were going through the pain of passing a melon wouldn't you rather have someone else looking out for you and keeping an eye on what's going on.
You hear all the time the mistakes made during delivery. Get rid of the only witness and what have we got left - the word of a mum who at the time is going through hell and back. I say let all the friends in for moral support as well. That should shut the interfering bureaucrat up!
Martin Robinson, England

Fathers-to-be should not be barred. From experience, being there at the birth of our three sons drew me closer and made me fall even deeper in love with my wife. Being there also made me more appreciative of my wife and mothers generally. The father-to-be could come in handy if there was shortage of staff like there was at the birth of my first child when I assisted the midwifery staff.
Olusegun H. Borges-Da-Silva, UK

I've been present at the birth of all four of my children, one of which was sadly still born. I cannot think of anything more distressing for my wife than for me to have been barred from the births. She says I was a great help and I believe her!
Also for all four births having me there meant that the staff on the ward could spend more time with other mothers who were unaccompanied. So if the so-called expert wants husbands to be banned he'd better conjure up some more midwives.

I think the presence of the father at a birth is a personal matter that should be decided by the couple themselves. The state should have no say in this decision.
David Beattie, UK

That comment in the movie "Boys nīthe Hood" was "Any fool can conceive a child. But it takes a good man to raise a child properlt" . Well fathers, your works starts in the delivery room. Wouldnīt have missed it for the world (three).
Sigmar Thormar, Iceland

I am so glad my husband was there when I was in labour and giving birth. We both found it to be a very moving and emotional experience - a very momentous point in our lives.
Jo Read, UK

An "expert" in what, I feel I have to ask? I am expecting my first child in July, and the thought of going through such an emotional and stressful time without the support of my wonderful husband, would be just unthinkable. He is already helping me in so many ways during my pregnancy, and him being with me in the delivery room is just an extension of this, sharing the whole experience and feeling part of it. The thing that makes me so mad is that this twit is probably being paid goodness knows how much money for their "expert" opinion. Keep it to yourself!
Andrea Semark, England

Yes they should be barred, then there would be less divorces. With my five kids I was either playing squash or asleep. The first four born in England the last one in the U.S. where the father is called 'the coach' and expected to attend. But no thanks its not for me and I'm still happily married after nearly 40 years.
Ian Hay-Arthur, USA

I think every man, at some point in life, needs to be present at childbirth. You not only learn respect for women and the whole process that brings life forth. But also, it is hoped, sense of perspective; that the universe is more than oneself (we, as a sex, find this a challenge) and we are present to usher in our greatest contribution to it and better get it right. I did it twice am appalled at the responsibilities but would not turn back for anything.
B. D, Keener, Germany

It was hard to see my wife in such intense pain, and frustrating not to be able to anything more than just hold her hand and caress her face, but I'm definitely glad that I was there for her, and that my nerve held all the way, despite initial doubts. I really understand that some men might not want to experience this, and therefore I agree with those who say it should be left to each couple to decide for themselves. But I think that being there is the very least that one can do for his partner. I didn't find it a spritually uplifting experience (unfortunately), as others say, more a relief that it was over. I don't know whether I was actually of any help -- my wife says I was -- but the emotional support of someone who loves you must count for something in what would otherwise just be a roomful of strangers.
Michael Neish, A Gibraltarian in Japan

We had our first baby in Tokyo. Japan has the lowest infant mortality in the world. It is not considered normal for the father to be present at the birth here. They will permit it if the father has taken a 'child birth' course before hand, which accordingly, I had done. The midwives were extremely good and were very flattering, repeatedly commenting on how kind and sympathetic I was. They clearly thought it was a good idea. It is an amazing thing to witness and I would recommend all fathers should try to attend but these do vary according to your temperament. I think most wives would appreciate the support although anyone with a propensity to get over excited is likely to be nuisance.
Anon, Japan (but British)

Few words are needed on this subject. My boy was born just a few months ago. I was there at his birth. My wife trusted me and only me to be there with the midwife when the time came. And I'm glad she did.
GDB, Canada

How utterly ridiculous! I cannot imagine how I would have got through the birth of our daughter 3 months ago without my husband's support. He was there for every twinge of my 2 day labour and shared with me this incredibly intense, moving experience. To suggest that his calm, rational behaviour and wonderful sense of humour in the face of all that I was going through, could have a detrimental effect on my mental state, is totally absurd. Who else would take me to the bathroom, be my disc jockey, hunt down nurses in the dead of night for more pain relief, walk the corridors with me and steer my IV pole, even hang on to me during delivery and encourage me every push of the way?
Anne Harris, Canada

Fathers should most definitely be allowed at the delivery of their children as long as their is no clinical risk to mum or child. The suggestion that fathers participating in the birth of their children - their flesh and blood as much as the mother's - is a "manifestation of Political Correctness" is ridiculous. If the father does not want to be present, by all means he should not have to go. But expecting men to be good, nurturing fathers starts with including them in the birth itself should they wish it.
Christe, USA

This question is quite troubling to me, in that it is being asked at all. It takes two to make a baby (natural), and yes, some fathers do get a bit 'senseless' during the event. However, that is no reason to call judgement on it for all fathers. I can categorically say, being right there, at my daughter's birth was the most important event of my entire life; short of my own birth. Besides, my daughter would never have forgiven me, for the rest on my life if I hadn't!
Shay Patel, USA

Well my wife is expecting our first baby this May and although she has expressed a desire to have her Mum and sister there to support her and guide her from the female/experienced mother perspective, she has definitely made a point of wanting me there during the birth. Needless to say she is a little scared and has told me that she wants my support during the delivery and has expressed annoyance at these so-called experts who feel the need to interfere in her choices.
Stuart J, UK

Its an awesome experience that should not be missed, that's not that point - the NHS is a service - key word being service. I help pay for that service therefore if I choose to make use of one part of the service (being present at the birth) that's up to me and not to anyone in the NHS - as with anyone who provides a service, the customer is always right.
Alan Lee-Bourke, Scotland

Dr Michel Odent's comments about the increased risk of caesarean section due to the male partner being present cannot be taken seriously due to the fact that he is a man and has never experienced childbirth either. How many childless midwives is he going to sack. Please just stop these gender stereotypes.
S Woods , Scotland

I delivered both of my children single-handedly in a remote jungle in south India, miles away from any doctors or medical experts...this was my wife's choice and both children have grown to be fine and healthy teenagers (18 and 15). This was my wife's choice, a decision taken because of her absolute distrust of the so-called medical experts...(these are the people that prescribed awful drugs such as thalidomide). Like my wife, I have zero confidence in doctors. Listen to the mothers (to-be)... she knows her own body better than any doctor ever will.
Charasi, UK

Somehow this discussion reminds me of the Carry-On style of 1950s NHS hospital ward where Matron Hattie Jacques lines up all the pregnant (i.e. sick) women ready to give birth as James Robertson Justice and entourage whisk by. A hospital run for the convenience of the Doctors, how wonderful! Mercifully my 2 children were born in the 90s and I was present for both and wouldn't have missed either for the world. More importantly my wife wanted me there (on both occasions).
Nigel Gomm, Canada

I was present for both and wouldn't have missed either for the world. More importantly my wife wanted me there (on both occasions).
Nigel Gomm, Canada
Having been present at the birth of my 2 sons I found it an odd experience. There was an awful lot of dullness - about 14 hours in my second sons case who just didn't want to see sunlight - a lot of seeing the woman I love in pain (how anyone can describe that as joyful etc is beyond me), and 10 seconds of cricket as 2 midwifes tried to catch the boys who appeared to have been shot out of a gun. However, I would be there for my (hopefully) third child - you bet!
Ian Hopgood, UK

What a load of rubbish! How DARE you suggest fathers-to-be should be barred from the delivery room. This should be for the couple themselves to decide. Or are you trying to get rid of potential witnesses to anything that could go wrong?
Donna Hayden, England

My husband was very stoic when I accidentally dislocated his finger by gripping his hand tightly during the birth. He was also on hand to greet our daughter while I carried on birthing her twin brother. I would have been lost without his cheerful support.
Linda West, England

Oh dear! Another "expert nanny" deciding what is good and bad for us. The choice should be left to the prospective parents, subject only to the disclaimer that their presence does not present a direct clinical threat to the health of the mother and child. Instead, let us ban the "experts" and revert to a healthy dose of common sense.
Chris Klein, UK

I chose not to have either of my husbands present at the actual births. Of course this was discussed during pregnancy and actually both guys seemed a little relieved once the decision was made.
Pat van der Veer, A Brit in Nova Scotia
Call me an old fashioned romantic, but I preferred to get on with the hard work and have the husband see both the babies, and me when we were not messy and distracted. During the actual labour, the husbands were present. I carefully watched their reactions. Both men were extremely caring and sensitive. I remember looking at their worried faces and eventually suggested that they go and get a cup of tea in the cafeteria. Perhaps the fact that I was a Nurse influenced the decision? I believe that cases should be looked at individually.
Pat van der Veer, A Brit currently in Nova Scotia

I was present at the birth of my son and it is one of the most treasured memories of my life. OK, so maybe I was a bit of a nuisance, especially when a nurse dangled him upside down by his feet in order to bathe him down! "I know my job, sir", she said condescendingly, but I still seethe at the memory of his little head poised above a hard sink. I think more men should be around to keep an eye on what the medical staff are up to!
Jeff Taylor, France

I am looking forward to the birth of my first child in about 3 weeks time and I am fed up with all the feminist rubbish about men making bad fathers. I fully intend to be at the birth, my wife wants me there, nay needs me there for support and reassurance. Not all men are bad.
Mr Gurney, UK

Frankly yes. Their emotional feelings often get in the way of the situation and I have heard that their sexual interest in their wife after seeing her deliver is often reduced. They also tend to faint when I put in epidurals in their wives
John Pollard USA

I was very offended by the insinuation that women are totally emotional and irrational during childbirth. I know nothing of delivery rooms because both of my children were born at home and I'm a strong supporter of homebirth. However, I think it should be a woman's right to decide who is present during the birth of her child - including the father. This is one of the most intimate and private times of a woman's life and I think it's appalling that women are too often treated as mindless animals though it.
M. Warren, USA

I refused to give birth without my husband at my bedside. He was anxious, klutzy, funny and totally enthralled
Pat, UK (US)
I refused to give birth without my husband at my bedside. He was anxious, klutzy, funny and totally enthralled. His was the only voice I heard as he repeated the midwife's instructions. I can't imagine anyone wanting to deny a couple the opportunities to share such an indescribably wonderful experience. I expect the 'expert' is a doctor. I say name him, so that expectant couples all over England will know who to avoid.
Pat, UK (US)

I was present at the birth of my children and found it a highly entertaining experience. I admit one of the doctors didn't like me asking him to move around a bit so I could get a good image on the camcorder, but I would not have missed it for anything.
John P. Glasgow, England

Unfortunately in most "civilised" societies, childbirth is often seen as an illness. I believe it is primarily because the established medical system has been allowed to take over from the midwifery system. My wife and I both read books and learned as much as we could from others including midwives about nutrition, prenatal and postnatal care and the birth process. Poor diet and nutrition is a leading cause of problems in whether a mother can carry her child to full term in good health. In our country, correcting poor nutrition is considered "alternative healing". The midwives we have used had the experience of over 1000 births each. I have had the joy of supporting my wife through the birth of four of my children, three at home and one as a "water birth" in a small tank in our bedroom. Not only do I disagree with a ban on husbands in the room, I disagree with parents putting themselves under such an authority that would even consider such an action.
Brian Anderson, USA

Most men cannot cope with the mess and stress of childbirth and are nothing but a pest to doctors, midwives, nurses and other professionals if in the labour room.
Steve Foley, UK
Most definitely! This is a manifestation of Political Correctness which I hope will die out. In the good old days the woman went to hospital with her mother, sister, mother in law best FEMALE friend, etc, and the man went to the pub with his mates. If all went well he got a phone call and it was drinks all round then a trip later to see mother and child all cleaned up and comfortable in bed. Most men cannot cope with the mess and stress of childbirth and are nothing but a pest to doctors, midwives, nurses and other professionals if in the labour room. we dont accompany our partners into the operating theatre for other procedures so why be present during childbirth?
Steve Foley, England

It is lack of the milk of human kindness to exclude fathers from the birth of their offspring.
Mohansingh, India
I was present at the birth of both my daughter and son. The efficient, effective, productive mass production system that modern medicine is, depends heavily on machinery and monitoring systems to watch the mother-to-be in labour. Very often, for long periods, the woman is left all alone without the presence of any other human beings - medical or otherwise - because the medical personnel are watching the progress of many a childbirth from far away on their screens. The mother-to-be is deprived of the psychological and emotional support from her near and dear ones - in traditional Indian society from her mother and other female relatives; in the so-called 'progressive', 'developed' and 'more civilised societies' of the west from her partner. It is lack of the milk of human kindness to exclude fathers from the birth of their offspring. It is time to banish the incantation of the shibboleths of cost-benefit analysis from maternity wards.
Mohansingh, India

It is up to the parents to be (especially the mother), to decide on whether the father is present, not the hospital staff. I know from experience that it can be hard for the mother to get her view across, the father can be of invaluable help to her in communicating with the staff. Instead of blaming nervous fathers for increasing the number of caesareans, help them to help the mother. It would be interesting to know whether the incidence of caesareans had increased in parallel with a rise in complaints against maternity units!!!
James Mann, England

I attended the birth of both of my children, in both cases I had a calming effect on my wife. When things got rough for her I was there to help her and draw her attention away from the pain. Some men are bound to be a source of problems, just as some women are irrational during child birth. During the birth of my daughter there was a woman in the next room that screamed at the top of her lungs during the entire ordeal. This had no calming effect on my wife.
R. Parks, Canada

Whilst I am sure that there are many women who would suggest that their partners have caused anxiety during labour, I feel the overall benefit of being present at the birth of your child is something that no-one could sell you for a million pounds. The experience for a partner is truly 'different' to that experienced by the woman giving birth. However, I feel we should try and keep this in perspective. We tend to focus on the negative issues raised by such a subject, and I am sure that if all fathers were interviewed having been through the experience then there would be a high percentage that would have been helpful, motivational and a sponge for pain induced verbal abuse. This in itself is well worth experiencing! On a more serious note, I feel that there must be a direct correlation between the amount a partner is involved prior to birth i.e. pre-natal birthing classes, reading books and how supportive they are during the birth. To overcome any nuisance factor a better education for all partners could be considered. With the variety of communication channels open to the community nowadays, the pre-natal 'instruction' ought to play catch up and this may help the understanding and empathy during a stressful time for both the mother and partner. My wife fully supported my involvement during the birth and I was pleasantly surprised at her publicy, for my support and motivational assistance, even though at times I did feel very helpless.
Andy Wong, England

I was present at the birth of both my sons, and found it an extremely emotional and spiritual experience that I will never forget. The reassurance that my wife felt by having me there which she hadn't obviously expected and also admitted openly after the birth, is proof enough for me that fathers have an important role at and during childbirth. If anxious fathers do risk passing on their anxiety to their partners as suggested by the "expert" (which may be true in some cases), maybe a little emotional support of such fathers would help to alleviate the problem.
Sven Coles, South Africa

Surely this is up to each couple to decide for themselves. Only if the father is a serious risk to the health of mother or child should he be forcibly barred from the delivery room.
Kirsty Hearn, UK

Throughout the birth of both my children, the nursing staff were at pains to say it was THEY that were the ones in the way not me and I was flapping around like the proverbial! They were cool, professional and excellent. A harrowing ordeal for me - but my wife insists that my being there meant everything. If it keeps 'em happy, why not.
Jonty Wood, UK

As a husband, I think we deserve the RIGHT to witness the magical birth moment of our 'flesh and blood'.
Sze Ming, Malaysia

I attended the natural birth of my first daughter and the caesarean birth of my second. Both stand out as two of the most important and wonderful moments of my life, experiences that priceless and bond you more closely to your partner and child than many could imagine.
Alan Pelz-Sharpe, UK

The creation of a child is a joint act and as such it seems perfectly right and normal that both father and mother should share in the moment of birth. However, it is clear that each couple must work out who they want at the birth, according to the individuals involved. You should not have rules for this situation.
Malcolm Birks, UK

I'm not married yet and I don't have children, but I think that delivery rooms should have public galleries to allow curious individuals to observe the wonderfully spiritual event of childbirth.
Dr. S, UK

No I do not think the husband should be barred, but he should not be forced. However it is up to him to make his own decision and not try to please his wife.
Joan Margaret Cafane, France

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  Health
'Keep men out of delivery room'
04 May 99 |  Health
Men suffer from baby blues

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