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Dads in the Delivery Room

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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.

ather and woman watching woman during childbirth

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?

next: Teenage Babysitters: Can We Trust 'Em?
8 comments so far | Post a comment now
ashley December 23, 2008, 8:07 AM

Well, the first time my mom was in the delivery room with me holding my hand which was awesome. I couldn’t have asked for a better person. The second time, I had to have a c-section because my daughter was breach, little snot with her big ol booty wouldn’t turn over!! So anyhow, they told him he could come in when the anesthesia kicked in. They brought him in right when they were slicing me open. They told him there would be a curtain and there wasn’t. So all I see is all 250 pounds of him passing out pretty much on top of the tiny little man that was my anesthesiologist. He gets up and won’t even look or talk to me. He says,”How are you talking and smiling and laughing when your insides are laying on the table and there is a gaping hole in your stomach??!!” It was so funny. It still makes him sick to talk about it.

Lisa December 23, 2008, 12:51 PM

Last time I checked, the man should be the least of your worries giving birth. If he can’t handle being in the birthing room, he shouldn’t have kids. Why do they get babied when we are going through some of the most intense pain of our lives?

Hector December 26, 2008, 7:01 AM

Bitter much Lisa?

I’ve been there for each of my 4 kid’s births, by choice.

So the man should be the LAST of your worries? I thought your partner was a VERY important part of the whole process. I can see how your patner will get alienated in your relationship.

Ju February 27, 2009, 1:07 AM

My husband does not like open wounds. I would tease if I got a cut on my arm or finger. HOWEVER, he wanted to see his daughter born and I think would have focused on that instead of the gaping hole. Of course, we won’t know until the second baby (not yet, maybe this fall or next year) is born to see what happens, the team wouldn’t let him see past the curtain (emergency c-section). I was so scared I was happy that he was there with me.

RC June 11, 2009, 2:19 PM

My husband was in the delivery room twice and sex has become a distant memory.

M August 12, 2009, 1:14 PM

Some men just can’t handle blood, etc.

Lisa’s comment concerns me. It’s almost as if giving birth as all about pain for her.

“If he can’t handle being in the birthing room, he shouldn’t have kids. Why do they get babied when we are going through some of the most intense pain of our lives?”

My response is: “If you’re just going to complain about the pain and demand that your husband changes his entire personality and deep-seated phobias, the why do you get married?” Surely love is about understanding and compromise? So the daddy can’t handle being in the birthing room; that doesn’t mean the daddy won’t be around for the remaining 99.99% of baby’s life! Chances are the daddy is right outside the door anyway.

HancockJENIFER July 29, 2010, 12:13 AM

I opine that to receive the business loans from creditors you must have a good reason. However, one time I have got a auto loan, just because I wanted to buy a car.

Shina July 29, 2010, 6:51 AM

Honestly, giving birth is disgusting. Babies are beautiful, precious, innocent, and a blessing
from God but giving birth is repulsive. People have different opinions on these things, it really just depends on your personality & the type of person you are. I love and adore my husband & he loves and adores me, we are soulmates. But we’ve both agreed that it would be best if he didnt go into the delivery room. Honestly, it’s a traumatic & disgusting process, and I don’t want
my husband seeing me like that. Sex just wouldn’t be the same for us, it would almost be awkward and kinda nasty. I think it really depends on the couple, but personally we both find labor a huge turn off. We love our baby to death, I’ve never felt so much love for anything before. I would feel more comfortable just being alone in. the delivery room with the doctors only.

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