Evidence Based Birth – What role should men play in birth?

Why this podcast?
I refer people to the Evidence-Based Birth website all the time and am so happy that there is now a podcast too. All of the articles are, as the name suggests, evidence-based, meaning you have access to solid information on which to base your decisions.

It is so very important that whatever choices you make surrounding your pregnancy and birth are informed ones.

Information and knowledge ensure that you are the driver in your experience rather than a passenger.

Why this episode?
I find this subject so interesting but before becoming a doula I hadn’t thought too much about this.

As someone who lives in a modern world I always just took it for granted that of course men should be present at the birth of their children. Of course they should support their partners.

Once my journey to become a doula began I started to think more deeply about this.

It is, after all, a fairly recent phenomenon that men have even been allowed into the birthing space. These days, at least in the west, they are expected to be there.

Not only that but they are often their partner’s only, constant support person.

To be clear, I am a hundred percent in support of men being present and providing support during birth.

Witnessing the birth of your child is a life-changing event, a miracle and I love seeing the dad’s face when their baby arrives in the world.

But, is it fair to expect so much?

Many men will have had no experience at all of birth and may never have paid attention to birth stories or thought about birth at all.

So why do we expect them to be a birth coach?

I hope you’ll join me in exploring these thoughts further and that you’ll find this episode as fascinating as I did!

The episode
The host, Rebecca Dekker, is joined by guest Lisa Marie Sanchez Oxenham. Lisa Marie has been a birth worker for over twenty-five years, spending the last ten as a licensed midwife.

She works with her husband, Richard, who is currently qualifying as a midwife, and together they work towards including men in the birth experience.

I love that Lisa Marie mentions that her and her husband focus on –

“Freeing men from an expected role in childbirth”

She talks about the fact that men came into the birthing room largely when The Bradley Method became popular and that their role was that of a coach.

Lisa Marie underlines how important it is for men to be able to be themselves during the birth experience. They need to be free to express their fears, to be loving and sensual with their partners, in short, to be themselves.

I am over the moon that Lisa Marie mentions that this is one reason why having a doula present can be invaluable to both the birthing person and their partner.

The doula can take the role of coach and the man (or woman) can simply love and support their partners in their own way and be present in an experience that is momentous, not only for the mother but for the partner too.

Lisa Marie and her husband try to ensure that the father is present at every prenatal appointment. That way, not only do they build a relationship of trust with each other, but the partner feels totally involved every step of the way.

In the case that a home birth becomes a hospital birth Lisa Marie prepares the partner beforehand so that, if an intervention is suggested, they can ask the medical staff for time alone to discuss it with their wife .

That way there is no pressure on the father to come up with questions on the spot or to make a quick decision.

As a doula, this is something I find essential to work on, prenatally, with clients.

I find it fascinating that Lisa Marie talks about showing videos to her clients of things like a baby being born with the cord around its neck or a birth involving shoulder dystocia.

Instead of these things being some kind of imagined horror, her clients can see exactly how she handles those situations, and, even more importantly, hear that her voice is calm and without fear.

Lisa Marie shares a story to illustrate how to incorporate fear into birth a healthy way.

A client of hers wanted to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) and prepared in every way she could.

Her husband, however, was incredibly frightened of the idea of a VBAC and of the planned home birth becoming a hospital transfer.

Lisa Marie was able to share evidence-based information with him to help and, ultimately, to let him know that it was ok to hold those fears.

She underlined the concept of informed-choice and reassured him that in the event of a transfer to the hospital they could still be in charge of their experience and ensure that it felt the way they wanted it to feel.

Again, in my work as a doula, I see this as an essential topic to cover with both parents.

To wrap up
Lisa Marie goes into a lot more detail about how both she and her husband got into birth work as well as how they work together with families.

She also delves into some questions for Rebecca, on the subjects of Cytotech and water birth.

I hope you found this post interesting and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Until next time!

Emily Wills is a doula based in Stockholm. She believes that birth can be a beautiful and empowering experience and started this blog as a way of sharing some really great podcasts. She is also a mother of three and an enthusiastic runner.
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