A mom and dad hold their newborn baby in their arms and smile.
Whatever his comfort level, dad can find a role in the delivery room. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Dads have played various roles in the labor process over the years.

While talking with my dad recently, he said he liked the idea of being in the waiting room and having the nurse come out and tell him if baby was a girl or boy. He seemed glad that this “was expected of me.”

This was the expected normal for many years.

In today’s culture, it now seems the expectation is that the man needs to be in the labor and delivery area, and he should be the “coach.”

I’m not saying this is bad, but I am wondering if we should give men more of a choice. An article in the Huffington Post a few years ago talked about this topic and asked if society is asking too much of men.

Prior to the 1970s, when men started being in the delivery room, mom was accompanied by other women, like the doula role now. This new movement was attributed in part to Dr. Robert Bradley and his book, “Husband-Couched Childbirth.”

An opposite view was voiced by French obstetrician Dr. Michel Odent, who argues in his research paper that men in the delivery room can slow labor down and decrease mom’s oxytocin release.

I recently listened to an intriguing webinar on this topic by Amy Gilliland, PhD, BDT. Her thought was that we should allow the man the choice of being the coach, the teammate, or the observer.

Some dads have reported wanting to be there with mom, but not seeing all the “blood and stuff.” There is a role for them without having to see it all, so to speak.

  • The coach is the one right there with the mom, rubbing her back if she desires, talking to her and encouraging her, doing whatever is needed to provide help and support.
  • The teammate is present and there, but not taking the lead support role. He is there to encourage mom and play a part, but a bit more distantly.
  • The observer is there to observe—he doesn’t want to be a part of the physical process. I read an OB’s comment about a dad who encouraged mom verbally from the other side of a partially closed door, because he didn’t want to “see.”

The webinar speaker pointed out that we should ask dad what role he would like to fill. We shouldn’t expect him to be in a role he doesn’t feel he can do. Let dad decide what he’d like to do, and go from there.

A doula is always a great choice, no matter what dad chooses.

The speaker’s final thought: Whatever role dad chooses in the birth process, it shouldn’t inhibit his ability to be a great father to the baby.

What role do you see your man filling?