Friday, October 23, 2009
Improving Birth, or Setting It Back 40 Years?
22 years ago, I was a clueless father-to-be. My at-the-time wife, and I were expecting a baby, (my first). Please remember that this is before internet, before everybody had a cell phone, and before they put wheels on suitcases. I had a decision to make: when it was time for the birth. Do I leave the labor room or do I stay for the birth of our daughter? At that time, men could have chosen either way, and it was socially acceptable. I chose to stay. I will always remember crying the first time I held my little girl. I would not have changed that experience for anything in the world. My daughter and I are very close, and I attribute that to the promise I made her right after she was born, which was: to “always love her and always be there for her, no matter what”. It is a promise I have always kept. Today, it is socially desired and accepted for men to be at the birth if they want to have any involvement in the life of their child. When I was running birth centers, and some of the dads were iffy about being at the birth, I would talk with them and convince them that it was the right thing to do. Recently, Michel Odent MD, a French obstetrician, who is revered as a god in the midwifery and natural birth movements and ignored by the mainstream medical establishment, stated that he thinks that men should be banned from the delivery room. This includes male obstetricians as well as fathers. He believes that only midwives and the mom should be in the room. (Click here to read article). As you know from having read last Friday's blog, Patrick Houser, the author of the Fathers To-Be Handbook is leading a workshop at the Controversies in Childbirth Conference (www.birthconference.org) on the importance of dads being involved in the pregnancy and the birth. Patrick believes that the dad, is the most important variable in giving the mother a good pregnancy, birth and breast-feeding experience. On the other hand, Dr. Odents ays: “If she can’t release oxytocin, she can’t have effective contractions, and everything becomes more difficult. Labor becomes longer, more painful and more difficult because the hormonal balance in the woman is disturbed by the environment that’s not appropriate because of the presence of the man.” It appears that Patrick Houser and Michelle Dunn cannot both be right on this issue. Therefore, the Controversies in Childbirth Conference, which is being held in Tampa, Florida, February 19-21, 2010 will extend an invitation to Dr. Odent to debate Patrick Houser on this issue. We will let you know if he accepts this invitation. I do have some questions that the birth media has not asked: A) If the mother does not want midwives, does that mean that the dads can be in the room? B) If there are only male obstetricians in the hospital, does that mean the woman is better off delivering along? IS it a choice between dad and midwife? C) If mlel obstetricians were banned from the delivery room because they interfere with the birth process, does that mean that. Michel Odent’s lifetime of work should be ignored, because HIS presence in the delivery room may have actually hurt women? D) What would be the implications for society be, as a result of banning men from the delivery room? As the conference coordinator for the Controversies in Childbirth Conference (www.birthconference.org). I must remain officially neutral on this issue. I've had a number of conversations about this issue in the last few days with both professionals and moms and dads AND, without exception they all asked the same question: "Is he crazy??" Hopefully, Dr. Odent will be able to defend his unusual position at the Controversies in Childbirth Conference. Have a great weekend. Alan