Guest blogger Elizabeth Kuster: Way back when, dads weren't allowed to be in the delivery room. Now they're barely allowed to be out of it: Modern society frowns on fathers who don't want to witness the miracle of their child's birth. But some dads should stay clear of the whole scene, because watching the live birth will traumatize them too deeply. A sex expert explains.
Forty years ago, the model father-to-be paced nervously around the hospital waiting room while his wife gave birth. Banned from the delivery room, he was excluded from the experience of seeing his own child come into the world. Now, of course, all that's changed: Not only are dads allowed in the delivery room, many of them film the event and even cut the umbilical cord. And that's nice -- most of the time. But some dads can't take it. Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., gynecologist and author of "What Your Mother Never Told You About Sex," has this advice:
Well before your due date, try to gauge your guy's reaction. "It's much easier to prevent the trauma in the first place than to cure it after the fact," notes Hutcherson. "So before you even decide if he's going to be in the delivery room with you, have your husband watch a video of a live childbirth. If he's grossed out or freaked out seeing it happen to a total stranger, then he shouldn't be in the delivery room with you during the actual birth."
Don't force him to look, cut the cord, or anything else. "If he's okay with being in the delivery room but just wants to stay up there at your head and hold your hand, let him," says Hutcherson. "Don't ridicule -- or guilt -- him into doing more than he wants to. If you force him to see something he doesn't want to see, you -- and he -- may pay a heavy price for it later on."
Even if he seems to handle everything okay, be prepared for him to be a little turned off afterwards. "It's common for men who've been in the delivery room to be turned off sexually for a brief period after their baby is born," says Hutcherson. "It usually only lasts a few weeks; by the time the gyno gives their wives the go-ahead for sex, the husbands are usually back to normal."
If his desire doesn't kick in soon, talk about it. "Some guys don't bounce back quickly," says Hutcherson. "For months after the birth, sex remains undesirable to them. They can't give oral sex, because every time they get that close, they visualize the baby's head coming out. Some are so traumatized they can't even get an erection! If enough time has passed that you've gotten the okay for sex -- and your husband's still not into it -- then you need to discuss the situation with him in a very loving way. Acknowledge his feelings and his fears. Don't ridicule him or put him down. Really listen to what he has to say. Then explain how your anatomy works, and let him know that your body has returned to normal."
If he's still squeamish, get help. "Bring him to your next OB/GYN visit, and have her explain things and address his concerns," says Hutcherson. "If, after the three of you talk about it, your man remains reticent about having sex, have your gyno recommend a sex therapist who can work with the two of you on this. Or go to the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapists and find one in your area. The important thing is not to give up."
For real dads' reactions, check out Dadlogic.
Was your guy in the delivery room?