While no one was looking the very foundations of our society, our culture and our families have undergone a metamorphosis. What about fathers at birth? There is really no discussion to be had about whether or not fathers ?should be in the room for the birth of their children. This debate was held years ago, practice shifted and parents now make their own choices in this regard. Today approximately 90% of fathers are with their partners during the birth of their children.
However, is fathers presence at birth or not the issue? Or perhaps, is there a different question we could be asking? Should fathers be better prepared for attending and supporting birth would be a better and more pertinent question?
Dr. Robert A. Bradley was a mid-20th century obstetrician in the USA. He was an early innovator at bringing fathers into the birthing room. The emphasis of his ?birth philosophy was that women know how to give birth naturally. He believed that the presence and support of the father during labor and birth was important to the mothers success in achieving a natural, normal birth. Dr. Bradley presided over 20,000 drug-free, hospital births in his career with fathers present. His parents took classes he designed and the births involved fathers supporting their partners with very successful and satisfying outcomes, physically and emotionally.
A very delicate balance of elements is required for a mother to have an optimal birth experience. These include elements in her physical environment, calm, quiet and a sense of safety. In addition, the people present, lack of interference and even her personal emotional history are important. While putting these pieces together for modern hospital births can seem daunting, it is also quite simple.
Part of the subtle biology of birth relies on oxytocin; one of the hormones the mothers body produces to trigger the onset of labour as well as its continuation. Oxytocin is also known as the ?hormone of love as it is a significant ?ingredient while love making. However, adrenaline can counteract or neutralise oxytocin. Fear is a primary trigger for an adrenaline response. Anyone in the room at a birth, doctors, midwives, fathers, relatives, doulas and even the mother can stimulate potentially harmful adrenaline production in a mother.
That men are typically under-prepared is an important issue that society needs to address and within the context of humanitys current perception that birth is to be feared rather than embraced as the joyous expression of life that it can be. Having said that, any midwife can testify that fathers can either ?make or break a birthing environment. A father needs to feel safe himself, be well informed about how to be at birth and what ?beneficially supporting the mother actually looks like.
A well prepared father has the potential to provide a tremendous sense of security for his partner. A birthing mother can easily feel overpowered with the depth of the experience she is having. In addition, for most mothers and fathers, the unfamiliar and often intimidating environment of hospitals can cause concern. The latent possibility that a couples relationship is a strong asset available to a birthing mother, and her carers, has been largely ignored.