Men at Birth

Posted by

So this subject seems to come up a lot. Men at birth!
The argument is that dads should not be in the delivery room during labor. Obviously that is because it is now more common than ever that dads can be found in the delivery room.

Some research carried out by University College London researchers working with teams at King’s College London and the University of Hertfordshire took 39 women, who were each given a ‘pinprick’ laser pulse on their finger while their husband or boyfriend stood by.
They monitored their brain activity and asked their opinions of how painful it was. Then they repeated the tests with the husband or boyfriend standing in another room.

I have two issues with this so far. We live in a world now where the term ‘Partner’ doesnt necessarily denote that partner is male so why wasn’t same-sex couples included in this research. This change could easily just be an effect of a loved one, not just the fact that it is a husband or a boyfriend.
Also is it a possibility that the reason it wasnt so painful the second time wasn’t because the partner was in another room, but because the body had already felt that pain and was therefore in some way prepared for it?
I am also unlucky/lucky enough (depending how you look it) to not be able to give birth, BUT after reading many birth stories I am confident in saying that pain and feeling of giving birth is impossible to replicate especially with a ‘pinprick’. (Queue the jokes about “that’s how all this started!”)

Anyway, enough of my opinion let see what the Experts actually said.
Katerina Fotopoulou, a cognitive neuroscientist who led the work at University College London, said:

“Some women might feel more uncomfortable with their partner there. It raises questions about the one-size-fits-all approach.”

“Previous research has shown that women prefer to have their partners present during childbirth and they make less use of painkillers after labour,”

“The different results of this controlled experiment could suggest that some of the previous results may not necessary relate to the sensation of physical pain, but the broader meanings and needs associated with childbirth.”

“The physical and psychological nature of labour pain may simply be different than other types of pain. Future studies could test how having a partner present during labour affects the pain felt by women who tend to avoid closeness in relationships.”

“Overall, this study suggests that partner support during pain may need to be tailored to individual personality traits and coping preferences,”

The research was published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

So is the pain effected by the fact the partner is there or whether they have a close relationship? I’m confused. If both mother and father have a great relationship does that mean pain is reduced? Are these results the same when a mum/sister/dad/dog/budgie are present or is it just men? (Stupid men *shakes fist in the air*)
I think this research is a little high level and there are too many variables related to labor for any research like this to have any credence, but hey…thats just my opinion. I also think a budgie would make a great birthing partner so what do I know!

Needless to say, when The Mrs gave birth I gave her the option both times to take her mum/sister (We didn’t own a budgie) into the delivery room and although it would have crushed me to miss the birth of either of my children I would have given that up if it would have been better for my wife.

I was going to include a poll on this post for people to vote after reading this post and this article (I found this one to be the best on the subject) but after seeing a couple of them elsewhere the results always seemed to be the same. So instead I will just ask this..

Mums – If you believe this research would you ever ask your partner to NOT be involved in labor?
Partners – Would you ever consider NOT being involved simply to reduce the pain to your partner? Even if she wanted you there?

Let me know your opinions below!

As always, thanks for reading.


  1. No I definitely would not ask my partner to NOT be in the delivery room. It is his right/duty to be there I think. I couldn’t have done it without him!
    I think I would be annoyed if he didn’t want to be there!

  2. Interesting study. I think the level of pain during childbirth is not comparable to the level of pain involved in a pin prick – whether one is ready for it or not – kind of an Apples and Oranges scenario.

    I attended the births of all four of our children. Prior to the epidurals, I don’t think my wife was conscious of anyone in the room except the nurse with whom she was face to face during her contractions. I remained at the head end of the bed, allowing myself to support my wife while quietly cheerleading and stealing short glances at the mirror above. There were many graphic details, most of which have happily left my memory.

    The bottom line is that we were in it together. I don’t believe my presence did anything to mitigate the pain – but it was wonderful to share the joy of welcoming four new lives into the world and it’s an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.

  3. Comparing a pinprick to delivery a baby seems quite idiotic, I was in the delivery room for the birth of my only child and it was the most stressful thing I had ever endured. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world

    1. Thanks for the comment and I agree it was one of the best moments of my life. I became a father and fell in love with my wife all over again!
      Thanks again

  4. Great post. So many very valid points. Ultimately we are in it together I would automatically assume that I would be at the birth. We had home births so we also had 2 family members present. This was great. I was there but we also had the female empathy, sympathy and experience to help out where to be honest after the first birth I really didn’t know what to do. I dont think my presence added or hindered the pain or birth. I probably would have felt insecure, angry and rejected if I had been asked or told not to be there. It is one of the most joyful amazing things to be a part of I would hate to have missed it.

    1. Like I said in the post, it would have devestated me but I gave The Mrs the option of somebody else becasue at the end of the day I wanted to do all I could to help her. If that meant she needed her mum/sister/budgie then thats what she needed.
      I had this image of me finding a long coat and a mask and sneaking in. I have obviously watched too many movies!
      Thanks for the comment!

  5. I saw this report the other day and thought “Having someone you’re emotionally detached from in the most important and emotional experience of your life DOESN’T lessen pain? Weird.”

    1. It’s a shame the research didn’t state that. Instead it specifically stated men are thge culprits. So same sex partner, twin sister and it should be a breeze! lol

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. Men get the blame for an awful lot in this world these days but I’m really not convinced fathers being at the birth will make any difference pain wise, but even if it did how much extra pain would it need to be for a mum to say no to the dad?

    Let’s be honest the pain of labour is a very different pain to other pains (or so I’m told) so can you really tell with a pin prick test?

  7. We saw this too! Unbelievable! I always think that researchers weight there research. I’m not sure fair tests exist! If they asked us, we’d certainly say that if I wasn’t there she would have found it much worse.

    What do men do that’s so bad?

    1. Who knows. That’s why my opinion is, was the change due to a man being there or simply a close emotionally, but of course having a dig at men probably helps with publicity!

      Thanks for commenting!

  8. I think, just think, that may have been a pointless study. Of course it’s down to each individual and each couple of to whether or not a woman’s labour would be made easier or not by the presence of their partner. Surely that’s common sense? I would never have told my husband he couldn’t be there to see the birth of his son and would have told him where to go if he had of told me he didn’t want to be there. If I had to go through it he sure as hell was gonna be traumatised by it. I can completely understand though how different people have different effects on you in a situation like birth but that study sounds like it could have been carried out by a monkey.

    1. Ha. Now I have that image of that old Tetley tea advert where thers chimps in white coats! 🙂
      I’m sure he wouldn’t have missed it either.

      Thanks for commenting.

  9. Wild horses could not keep me from being at my daughters birth, we are family after all. My wife has a saying when she is trying to get me to do something or other ” a family that (does whatever it is) together stays together”. No substance really to it but I like it..

    1. I hope that doesnt stretch to showers and other bathroom activities! lol
      I also would have done all I could to be there for when my babies were born. Luckily it all went smoothly.

      Thanks for commenting!

  10. What an incredibly thought-provoking post. Wow. I think you have a right to be there but as the woman is the one going through the birth, really the buck stops with her and her wishes. I’m sure most would want their partners there for support (I did but didn’t want my Mum there despite her being my best friend, she would have stressed me out too much)…whether in the long run it makes them worse, oh well-I think the important thing is to go with the experience, if she asks you to leave or you feel some space would help and she consents, then fine but it’s such a whirlwind. I ended up in labour with my first, husband left as the consultant said induction would takes a day or more, and low and behold I was being rushed for a crash section a few hours later with a husband just making it to theatre. I’m so glad he did too. I can’t imagine him not having been there. Thanks for linking up to #brilliantblogposts

    1. Thanks for the comment. I bet he would have never forgiven himself of he hadn’t of made it. Sad thing is how many times that happens and they don’t make it!

      Thanks again.

  11. Very interesting article ! I tend to agree with Honest Mummy above that the decision is ultimately the Mum’s. She is giving birth after all. I was present at all my children births. The first was a 33 hour labour which ended in a C-section. The other ones were planned C-sections and they were all the best moments of my life – but to be honest I found the long labour of the first birth quite unsettling to say the least and my being in the room not any use to my wife either….. So let the mother decide I would say, and go from there.

    1. Thanks for the comment and it’s interesting how many different perspectives I’ve read from this.
      I think you are selling yourself short. With a 33 hour labor don’t you think your presence and support helped?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.