I've been meaning to get back to this, I wanted to elaborate after I said I disagreed with Dr. Odent, because really I love him and agree with him for the most part. It's nice to see this thread because in previous threads when I questioned the wisdom of expecting the father to attend the mother and be her primary support in labor, I saw a lot of resistance.
So, who started this idea, really? It wasn't the mothers. It was men like Drs. Bradley and Lamaze who recognized that women did better if they had a loving, familiar person with them in the cold, clinical setting of the hospital (especially as it was back then.) The father, being at the time considered to be in an authoritative sort of role as husband, would also (in theory) be well received as a guide and coach by the (hypothetically) subservient wife. Doctors who did not want this role usurped, or who felt they saw husbands not playing it well, resisted having them there. But enough women felt comforted by their husbands, and enough husbands felt honored to witness the miracle of their own children's births, that the idea caught on. Now it would be unthinkable for a doctor to deny a father access to the birthing room.
One unfortunate result of the movement to have fathers involved, though, is that now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction: fathers must be at the birth. It is their responsibility. And the problem with that is that men are not biologically meant to be involved in the birthing process. They have no intimate understanding of it from experience or hormones, so their actions during the birth are more likely to be based on what they've been taught rather than on an inner knowing, and that can easily give rise to fear and agitation (although, of course, they are not the only ones who can send this to the mother.) And as they're working from a place in their head, there will be conflict with what the mother's body is telling her from the inside. The adrenaline is going to be in the air as well, which will affect the mother's body's ability to function in itself, even apart from the psychological effect. It's a tall order for the father to be what the mother needs in birth. A lot of men "fail", judging from the many birth stories I've read, but they've been set up for failure by unreasonable expectations. And many men also, doing what they've been taught, guide and coach and help the mother to stay "in control", which (even if they're calm while doing so) interferes with the natural process, keeping the mother from going to a completely primal consciousness which allows the unimpeded flow of birthing hormones. So in that sense as well, they (or, again, whoever does this) can hinder the labor.
That said, some men do manage to be calm and nurturing during the birth process and can be a great asset. My husband was able to enter into a very primal place with me, and that was a greater comfort and security and support than any other birth attendant could have been.
Personally, I think that if women felt safer to begin with, and did not feel the expectations of society to have what it currently defines as a "good husband", they would generally not feel it so important to have the fathers present at birth. Their choice would be based on their primal needs, their level and type of connection with the father, and on the father's feelings.
Bonding is another matter, though. I think it's valid to consider whether it is essential, in a society where a father, mother, and children make up a somewhat isolated and autonomous family unit, that the father have every opportunity to bond with the mother and baby. In more tribal societies, the mother's day-to-day support would be more likely to come from her mother, her aunts, her sisters, her female neighbors (who would also act as midwives.) It was important, therefore, that she and the baby bond with them, and it made sense therefore that they be present when bonding hormones were flooding the mother's body. It doesn't make sense for the mother to bond with someone she will likely never see again, like a doctor or modern-day midwife, and in fact can lead to feelings or loss and abandonment, contributing to postpartum depression.
It makes sense in our culture, then, for the husband (as he feels comfortable with it) to be present at birth, not necessarily for labor support, but simply to witness it and be there for the bonding period. Whether that can happen when a birth is medicalized is another question, as the mother may not be flooded with those bonding hormones when birth is medicalized or disturbed.
So it's not a black and white "father at birth is always good" or "father at birth is always not good." It depends on several different factors.