Why are women with partners more likely to opt for drugs in labor? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 62 Old 11-17-2010, 11:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Recently I learned, from a yet-unpublished study, that women that had their spouse present during birth were much more likely to choose pharmacological methods of pain relief.

 

I pose these two questions to you, empowered birthing women:

1) Why is there such a correlation?

2) What can we women do to better prepare our partners?

 

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor.  Maybe they recommend drugs when the time comes.  Maybe they just don't discourage it.  Maybe they stand around, paralyzed, unable to help.

 

And as far as what we can do to help... I have no idea.


What do you think?


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#2 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 06:44 AM
 
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Hm.

 

Maybe singles are more likely to be independent thinkers?

Maybe socio-economics comes into play?

 

I don't know.  My single sister chose an epidural, and my dh has never encouraged me to go against my birth plans.


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#3 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 07:10 AM
 
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I have no idea.. My DH knew that I didn't want any drugs and he was not to suggest them. It was hard for him to see me in pain, but he never once suggested medication...


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#4 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 07:18 AM
 
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I guess it depends what you mean by "help".

 

I worry that the reason that single women don't get pharmacological pain relief isn't because they don't feel the need.  I have heard plenty of stories of doctors and nurses who treat single mothers less well than they treat married ones, whose attitude towards a single woman in intense pain is "That'll teach you!"

 

By comparison, not only are doctors and nurses more likely to react approvingly to a married woman's request for pain relief, but that partner is more likely to stand up and demand that his wife be treated well and kindly.  If that's the reason why married women are getting more anesthesia, then better preparation for married women's birth partners is completely beside the point.

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#5 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 07:21 AM
 
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Well, when I was unmarried and single, they practically forced anesthesia on me. I had to beat them off of me to keep from having an epidural with #1. With #2 they won that game. With #3 I was not married but my partner was involved and he knew I did NOT want anything. They gave me 1/2 dose of nubain but then he managed to keep the epidural away. I think it's like what was said above about seeing the women they love in pain. But my dh also knew I would kill him if he let me get an epidural. lol.gif

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#6 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:34 AM
 
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Interesting.  I'd like to see the study.

 

I think it could be socio-economic.

 

I think it also could have to do with the way single moms are treated by some.  Especially oung single moms.  I'm not sure there's quite such a sympathy/end-the-pain response when it's a young single mom giving birth, vs. a mom who's done everything in "the right order". 

 

Of course, statistics only mean so much.  My single sister had an epidural (and then a section).  Meanwhile, dh has been by my side for all three births and the most I've had is stadol, and that was only in the first birth.  If anything, my husband is my strongest and most consistent advocate and encourager for natural births. 

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#7 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:39 AM
 
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I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?


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#8 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:42 AM
 
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I wonder if the whole "you'll hate him in labor/'why did you do this to me?!'"  Thing is at play as well?

 

I agree with what all has already been said but I can see one cause being that the married person with her spouse there is going to have heard the jokes about how you'll think he is evil an so forth during labor/birth and is more reminded of it with him standing there and therefor thinks labor is harder/hurts more simply because they already have it in their head that they are supposed to be 'mad' at him right now.  More negative stories screwing with women psychologically.

 

I've heard the 'punishment' stories though (there is a really awful one on myobsaidwhat.com from a teen mom) and socio economic issues make perfect sense.

 

All I know is, I am 100% not likely to get anything unless there is an absolute need for it no matter what haha.  My husband couldn't be at the last birth (deployed, on the phone... poor guy) but he will be at the next one (he is getting out!) so hopefully he learns right quick to just trust me and not want me to 'take something for the pain.'  I know he won't like to see me in labor haha.

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#9 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:47 AM
 
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My husband told me last night that he "knows" I could have delivered my most recent baby more quickly if I would have opted for an epidural because he has been talking with "people" who say it "calms" women and allows labor to progress. OK, so that does happen sometimes, but epidurals also slow/stall labor more often than that, and I didn't want one for many reasons. That's why I hired a doula. I knew DH wouldn't like seeing me labor unmedicated. I think many partners can't stand to see women in pain, and if they are men, they can't exactly relate.


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#10 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:51 AM
 
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Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 

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#11 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 08:54 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post

I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?


I think this is a good explanation. I know that I got an epidural with number 3 because we were desperately trying to get someone to come to the hospital to pick up our kids (it was the middle of the night and pre-term, so my mother was not listening for our call) and every time I had a contraction my dd (2 yo) started crying and it made the contraction hurt worse. We were feeding off each others stress and pain. I can see something similar happening with a partner.
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#12 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 09:38 AM
 
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In my thinking...

 

I'm a woman/mom. I take care of everyone...its my instinct. When I can't mother hen something I feel out of control. In a birthing situation... I'll focus in on my worried husband (this was the first two times...now mine's a pro lol) and want to make him feel better when I should be focusing inward. The pain relief from an epi or some stadol can give the ability to focus in his direction to make him "better."

 

Now that I no longer put myself at the hospital to birth, (my last two have been born at home...my first was hospital w/ epi) I don't have the option for pain relief from drugs. And I've actually found I'll stay AWAY from my husband/kids until the very end because they take my focus. I want to comfort them and take care of them, when I need to focus on me.

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#13 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 09:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies, ladies!

 

It looks like there are two different, but compatible theories:

 

1) Single women are treated more poorly in the birth environment.  I will have to see how much this has been documented, but this is not surprising and a very likely explanation.

 

2) Women (and mothers) aim to please those around them, and to shield them from the discomfort of seeing them in distress.

 

Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.


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#14 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 12:26 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

Thanks for the replies, ladies!

 

It looks like there are two different, but compatible theories:

 

1) Single women are treated more poorly in the birth environment.  I will have to see how much this has been documented, but this is not surprising and a very likely explanation.

 

2) Women (and mothers) aim to please those around them, and to shield them from the discomfort of seeing them in distress.

 

Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.


maybe because other support is likely to have gone through birth themselves?


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#15 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 01:23 PM
 
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 Oddly enough, there were no other correlations between having other support people (mothers, sisters, friends, doula) and whether women chose drugs in birth.


I remember reading in a different study that women in labor report approximately the same amount of pain after having an epidural as they do when they have a doula attending them.  I guess the theory is that having consistent, trained female care & companionship during labor can reduce the experience of pain.  (Which is great, 'cause doulas are a lot cheaper than anesthesiologists, and no yucky side effects either!!!)
 

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#16 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 02:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor. 


This is what I first thought. I mean, *I* would have a hard time watching a loved one suffering. I really would!

 

The other thing is that men tend to be not as well read about birth. They probably haven't put as much time & thought into it, so they might not really truly grasp the implications of that massive step down the path of a medicalized birth, so they might not be as dedicated to avoiding epi. After all, pretty much everyone gets one, right? shake.gif

 

This is one case where I was at an advantage having a DH who is a bit insensitive sometimes, ha! & even given that he can be insensitive & unsympathetic, he still was a little 'freaked out' when I was in transition & screaming. He wasn't about to suggest drugs, but he did feel a bit powerless & overwhelmed (I didn't want him to touch me, so there was really nothing he could do to help.)

 

I think often men want to "fix" a problem - they have trouble just empathizing & offering emotional support without "ACTING" to "fix" what is wrong.

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#17 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 02:12 PM
 
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Dr. Michel (sp?) Odent would say it's because laboring women have a harder time getting into the groove and a functional labor and can-do mindset if men are around. Except he'd say that in French and more professionally. For some that might actually be true, I do tend to feel more self confident with DH's support from afar than right there with me.

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#18 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 02:25 PM
 
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Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 



 I find this offensive.  My DH is not lame because his desire to support my wish was at war with his desire to fix my pain.



Quote:
Originally Posted by fireHC11 View Post

Recently I learned, from a yet-unpublished study, that women that had their spouse present during birth were much more likely to choose pharmacological methods of pain relief.

 

I pose these two questions to you, empowered birthing women:

1) Why is there such a correlation?

2) What can we women do to better prepare our partners?

 

My theory is that birth partners, no matter how prepared, break down when seeing the woman they love in labor.  Maybe they recommend drugs when the time comes.  Maybe they just don't discourage it.  Maybe they stand around, paralyzed, unable to help.

 

And as far as what we can do to help... I have no idea.


What do you think?


I have given birth 3 times, first as a single mom, no epidural, second married, with an epidural and third, married, no epidural.  I didn't want the epidural with #2, but I caved after being asked just once.  He never pressed, only asked.  When I was pg with #3, we discussed it at length.  And your theory is EXACTLY what he told me.  It's one thing to "know" that the woman you love is going to be in a lot of pain, it's another to be in that moment experiencing it.  He never recommended it, never pushed it, he only asked once.  He just felt really helpless, like nothing he was doing to support me was working (it was, but it can be hard to tell, you know.)  With the third, I knew I didn't want an epidural, and we had a lot of conversations about it.  And in the end, he didn't ask.  I almost caved anyway, but ran out of time.


 

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#19 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 04:28 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by philomom View Post

Women with lame partners, maybe. My dh was Bradley trained and was an amazing amount of support and comfort to me. Not once did anyone in the room suggest anything to me. I had gloriously intervention free, drug free births.

 



I think 'lame' is not necessarily the appropriate term. You aren't a lame partner just because you haven't taken Bradley. It is normal to want to take pain away from someone you love.


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#20 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 04:47 PM
 
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Didn't the study put foward a possible explanation?

It could be that women with partners are more confident that their wishes will be followed and so they are more likely to ask for pain medication than un-partnered women. It could also just be that is how it was for that particular cohort of women, and that it wouldn't play out that way in the greater population.

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#21 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 05:49 PM
 
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Dr. Michel Odent has spoken out against men/husbands being in the delivery room FOR MOST CASES.

 

Now, this is not referring to our DH's who are awesome birth partners.

 

But I can tell you, that for many men, their nature, as men, is that when they see their loved one in pain, they want to DO SOMETHING to help.  For some, who have been properly prepared with a Bradley class, or read "The Birth Partner" they will step up to the plate and put their energies to facilitating an active labor.

 

For other men, they will look at their wife in pain, look at the doctor, back at the wife, and say "Doctor, she's in pain - DO SOMETHING!"  and then the epidurals and interventions begin...

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#22 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 06:09 PM
 
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Back in the 1970s, when having your partner in the delivery room was a novelty, most natural birth advocates felt that having the husband there would be an advantage for the women who otherwise felt alone and abandoned in her labor room.  Obviously this has backfired since obstetricians will try to manuever husbands into procedures and surgery to move things along.

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#23 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 09:41 PM
 
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I agree with the "young, single mom gets poor care" approach (that it happens, that is, not that it's a good thing).

 

I have a friend whose first birth was as a teen mom - induced, but without pain medication at any point and of any kind.  It was a fast labor (her then-boyfriend was with her for the labor, she never took a birth class).

 

Her second baby was a longer labor, with a husband who'd never been at a labor before.  She wanted a natural birth, they did classes, and he was just overwhelmed with how much it seemed to hurt her.  She opted for the epidural because, she said, he was so worried about how much pain she was in.  She ended up with numbness in her legs for several weeks, headaches, etc.  If they have another, I think the plan is to have a doula there too and kick the anaesthesiologist out of the room.  . 

 

It's not that her husband wished her malice, he was overwhelmed by her pain and wanted to fix things. I think it's a combo of men thinking that they should 'fix' things (and not wanting to feel guilty about 'causing' this pain), and women wanting to please others (especially a panicked spouse).  Plus, we trust them.  If they think it's that awful, and we feel that awful, then we must need medicine.  The fear of birth we have as a culture plays into this, because men and women are both afraid that birth is earthshatteringly painful and catastrophic - that's what they see in the movies, on TV, talked about among friends....

 

I've another friend who told me that if she ever gets pregnant, she doesn't want her husband in the delivery room at all - she doesn't want him to see her "like that." 

 

When we were teens, we found the love letters my Dad had written my Mom while they were engaged.  He wrote about worrying about how much pain she'd be in when they had babies.  Mom had all 7 births with no pain medications at all, Dad was one of the first dads allowed into the delivery room at that hospital.  He fainted during the first birth (not surprising, the doctor cut a horizontal episiotomy on Mom). 

 

I think the real factor, then, is a combination of how strong the woman's knowledge and goals are - and how willing her spouse is to educate himself and support her in labor.  Dad didn't go into it confident; but he became confident in Mom's capabilities over time.  Likewise - my uncle has said more than once that he'd LOVE to be a doula.  He and his wife had five babies, all natural births, and he loves birth.  He's in awe of what women can do (the best part of this is, he's a crusty old rancher, totally incongruous I suppose). 

 

My husband went to birth class with me, and I read passages aloud to him while I was preparing.  Went over the plans, and told him, "Don't suggest drugs, and if I ask for them, tell me NO, because I don't really want them."  He was kind of on autopilot for our first birth -- scared.  He told me, he was so afraid that something awful would happen to me and the baby that he just couldn't really think.  Seeing his first birth calmed him down - he was very competent for our second birth.  The advantages I had with our first birth were that every woman in my family has had natural births, so I was confident - and we birth quickly, so there wasn't time for the hospital to intervene and muck things up. 

 


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#24 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 10:16 PM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post

I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?

This is basically what I was going to say. If you see that your partner is distressed or uncomfortable with your pain, it may make it harder for you to cope and accept the pain as just part of the process. You may feel the need to "feel better" so that your partner can feel better. And so many men don't want to know anything about the birth process before it happens, I don't think they are really prepared for it, and they can't understand why you would choose NOT to get the drugs. And some voice that opinion. My DH doesn't even want to hear the words birth or labor before I'm in labor. Seriously. But I am planning a home birth so no drugs are going to be around for the pushing. And he is supportive of my choice to do whatever the heck I want to. As long as we don't have to talk about it in detail first. lol

 


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#25 of 62 Old 11-18-2010, 11:37 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by elanorh View Post

I agree with the "young, single mom gets poor care" approach (that it happens, that is, not that it's a good thing).

 

I have a friend whose first birth was as a teen mom - induced, but without pain medication at any point and of any kind.  It was a fast labor (her then-boyfriend was with her for the labor, she never took a birth class).

 

Her second baby was a longer labor, with a husband who'd never been at a labor before.  She wanted a natural birth, they did classes, and he was just overwhelmed with how much it seemed to hurt her.  She opted for the epidural because, she said, he was so worried about how much pain she was in.  She ended up with numbness in her legs for several weeks, headaches, etc.  If they have another, I think the plan is to have a doula there too and kick the anaesthesiologist out of the room.  . 

 

It's not that her husband wished her malice, he was overwhelmed by her pain and wanted to fix things. I think it's a combo of men thinking that they should 'fix' things (and not wanting to feel guilty about 'causing' this pain), and women wanting to please others (especially a panicked spouse).  Plus, we trust them.  If they think it's that awful, and we feel that awful, then we must need medicine.  The fear of birth we have as a culture plays into this, because men and women are both afraid that birth is earthshatteringly painful and catastrophic - that's what they see in the movies, on TV, talked about among friends....

 

I've another friend who told me that if she ever gets pregnant, she doesn't want her husband in the delivery room at all - she doesn't want him to see her "like that." 

 

When we were teens, we found the love letters my Dad had written my Mom while they were engaged.  He wrote about worrying about how much pain she'd be in when they had babies.  Mom had all 7 births with no pain medications at all, Dad was one of the first dads allowed into the delivery room at that hospital.  He fainted during the first birth (not surprising, the doctor cut a horizontal episiotomy on Mom). 

 

I think the real factor, then, is a combination of how strong the woman's knowledge and goals are - and how willing her spouse is to educate himself and support her in labor.  Dad didn't go into it confident; but he became confident in Mom's capabilities over time.  Likewise - my uncle has said more than once that he'd LOVE to be a doula.  He and his wife had five babies, all natural births, and he loves birth.  He's in awe of what women can do (the best part of this is, he's a crusty old rancher, totally incongruous I suppose). 

 

My husband went to birth class with me, and I read passages aloud to him while I was preparing.  Went over the plans, and told him, "Don't suggest drugs, and if I ask for them, tell me NO, because I don't really want them."  He was kind of on autopilot for our first birth -- scared.  He told me, he was so afraid that something awful would happen to me and the baby that he just couldn't really think.  Seeing his first birth calmed him down - he was very competent for our second birth.  The advantages I had with our first birth were that every woman in my family has had natural births, so I was confident - and we birth quickly, so there wasn't time for the hospital to intervene and muck things up. 

 



love the mental image of a crusty old rancher as a doula...

 

talking to my midwife for our second she was amazed that I had my first with no epidural because we hadn't taken any birth classes. I think it really helped that both DF's family and mine believe in natural birth, that both DF and I were home births, and I had done a tone of reading and had told DF a bunch of the possible side-effects of an epidural. but I think if I had had a longer labor there would have been a much greater chance of me ending up with one. 


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#26 of 62 Old 11-19-2010, 06:44 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Chavelamomela View Post

Dr. Michel Odent has spoken out against men/husbands being in the delivery room FOR MOST CASES.


Hm, I can see the logic in this, I guess. I mean, just this week I was advising a friend to consider not having her DH in the room for her birth because he is, in her words, "squeemish about blood & medical stuff."

 

But on the whole, my DH is my partner in life. He is my partner in this parenting adventure - and birth is the commencement of parenting. (LOL, but "beginning" just doesn't seem to be a powerful enough word to convey the seriousness of this onset of parenting.)


I love him, trust him, & feel comforted by his presence. I like having him to take care of me if I am sick or worried. He reassures me. I can't fathom my laboring being anything but better for his presence.

 

Again, I totally see the logic in NOT having a partner attend birth, but I'd have to guess it's more likely than not that the presence of a well-educated partner would be beneficial. (Of course "well-educated" being crucial.) Isn't that exactly what Dr. Bradley found? That when husbands were allowed in, the outcomes were better?

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#27 of 62 Old 11-19-2010, 07:39 AM
 
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I wouldn't have felt comfortable not having DH in the room, even though he tells me now he wished I had an epidural, and he was kind of a deer in the headlights for all three births. Because the baby is his child, too, I feel he should be in the room to see the entrance.


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#28 of 62 Old 11-20-2010, 06:00 AM
 
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I wouldn't have felt comfortable not having DH in the room, even though he tells me now he wished I had an epidural, and he was kind of a deer in the headlights for all three births. Because the baby is his child, too, I feel he should be in the room to see the entrance.



That's how I feel too.  DH was FANTASTIC during labour.  A superman.  I'd hired a doula because I expected him to be crap, but it meant I had two fantastic supports.  I did have an epidural in the end, but I was in labour for 36 hours first - I needed to sleep.  And the epidural freaked my husband out far worse than me being in labour did.  That's when the doula went from being my support to being my husband's support - she explained all the equipment they were using and what it was for.


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#29 of 62 Old 11-20-2010, 08:48 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post

I've heard a theory that the woman is reading the face of the partner and seeing any worry, whatever, there and women are more likely to be, sort of, trying to make others happy (despite being the one in labor)... so it's sort of a theory of people pleasing - you don't want other people to seem uncomfortable with your pain, so you accept drugs, I guess?



This is what I would guess.  That Michele Odent article about partners not being present is the first thing I thought of when I read the title of the thread.


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#30 of 62 Old 11-20-2010, 01:30 PM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by Chavelamomela View Post

Dr. Michel Odent has spoken out against men/husbands being in the delivery room FOR MOST CASES.

 

 

Wow, that is interesting. My hubby is a bit on the lame duck end for labor support. Yeah, he did well at telling me that I was doing great. No, he didn't suggest pain relief (we'd previously discussed this). But he didn't know really what to do. He's not really into birth as some dads may be. I did end up opting for an epidural with my first birth. I was augmented with pit, the contractions were practically on top of each other and the nurse at the time was not helpful. If I'd had a doula or a different nurse or someone with more birth knowledge, perhaps that person could have helped me find another way to cope.

 

I'm due with my second and am planning a homebirth this time to avoid pit and lack of support. I suspect that my hubby will end up spending much of my second labor watching our toddler since he feels it's unnecesary to hire someone to watch our son. I'm beginning to feel that it's not such a bad thing...
 


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