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Men want Men only Childbirth Education Classes

June 25, 2011

Men Want Men Only Childbirth Education Classes

Phillip White

After a couple decades of men attending childbirth education classes, studies  have shown that they were (are) disappointed by the childbirth education classes they attended.  Since the 1970s with the move to bring men into the birthing suite, childbirth educators sought to include men in labor and delivery as philosophies such as Frederick Le Boyer’s,  The Bradley Method,and the Lamaze methods became vogue.  Originally childbirth education classes were directed for women to learn about childbirth, and later they learned with their partners how to work together as a birth team.  Many men coached their partners through childbirth with breathing exercises and massages and such.  These practises helped men to feel very involved and connected to their partners.

Today over 90 percent of men attend the birth of their children, and most go to the childbirth education classes, but they are voicing how disappointed they are in what they are learning; they don’t feel connected and they don’t feel that their needs were meet.  Men especially voiced being neglected and that they were being pressured by the practioners and their partners to provide support at the birth even when they felt very uncomfortable in doing that.

A recent study was done which showed that though some men felt childbirth education had positive consequences for them, yet others in the same group felt that the classes reinforced their desire not to provide that support; those men wanted only to be spectators.  The last group of men expressed mixed feelings about their role in the “birth thing.”  Many participants in one study reported feeling powerless during the birth, feelnig they could not hel ptheir parners going through the intensitity of labor.  Furthermore more than half the men interviewed reported that they “had been made to feel as if they were in the way during the birth” (Asa Premberg, Fathers’ Experiences of Childbirth Education).

Though men report that they attend the childbirth education classes to be supportive of their partners, but while they are in attendance, they begin to realize that they have needs too.  They don’t feel the classes are meeting those needs. To them the childbirth is secondary to their preparation for fatherhood.  Also men want to express their thoughts and fears openly but hold back, knowing that their comments and questions might not be taken well by their partners.

Men also viewed the childbirth education classes as not providing them anything special, for they could obtain the same information from the internet or through books or from friends.  Men did find the narratives shared in the classes to be interesting, but since each birth experience was so different, and some were  too extreme for them or were horror stories with no relevance.

What men did say is that they wanted  to have a class specifically for them.  Since childbirth is the first step in their becoming fathers, they want to focus on the fatherhood aspects.  The men do want to know what their role is at the birth, but more importantly, they want to know what to do after the baby
is in the family (what I refer to  in Men at Birth as the “after mission time” and the “debriefing”).  They do want to be supportive at the birth,
but they really want to know how to take care of the baby and their partner after the birth.  They want to discover how their role and responsibility changes.

To many men,  don’t really get how significant the birth is to their relationship with their partner, even if they attend the birth, they are not really wanting to be there.  Many men think that the hospital staff, the doctors and nurses, the doula or the midwives are there to support the birth, and that they are there to observe the birth only, not understanding woman’s desires to have emotional support; but women expect to be supported by their partnersThis is where interppersonal conflict can begin, so presently a poor quality childbirth education that men are getting does nothing to prepare them for those expectations effectivelly.  It’s time for men to become educated, and its time for men to be educated in ways that will prepare them effectively.  If childbirth educators want a childbirth education book for men, then they should seriously consider Men at Birth; among the many things Men at Birth offers is a platform for this dialog to occur between men and their mates regarding their roles and place during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum adujustment.

Aside: When writing this piece, I spoke with a pregnant couple who are about to have twins.  The man didn’t talk at all when I was speaking about how men feel that childbirth classes are not directed for their education but basically exclude them.  I also mentioned that men feel awkward during  the labor and delivery of their children, just as the study had documented, and the woman I was speaking to turned to her partner and started telling him, “ you don’t feel that way, right?  You feel like you should be their.”  It was clear to me that I had discovered something in this short exchange.  Women want men at the birth and want them to feel comfortable, but the women are telling the men how to feel, and  men’s feelings are virtually squelched.  As the study suggested, men don’t feel like they can contradict their partner’s ideas.  The men just hold those feeling down and struggle through the pregnancy and childbirth.  Could this me the first step to being a father?  Men then have to learn how to put others feelings first.
These men need a way to express themselves, but Lord knows that isn’t going to happen if their partners and the childbirth educators are telling them
what to feel and how to act.  The ambivalence that this man felt is just as the men were reporting in the study.  They say nothing and tough it out.  But half of men are reporting that they want to be free to express their concerns, hopes, fears and desires related to the coming birth and the they want to prepare for fatherhood. Men need and want childbirth education classes for men taught by men.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2012 8:29 pm

    my husband was there for all three of my birth in someway shape or form.he went to all my lamaze classes and watch the videos and we did lamaze exerises and he read all the book on birth.he said he wish the were more men supported childbirth classes.on childbirth and being a daddy.he was there two of vaginal births and he waited in hallway for annocement of his son born by emergency c-section .i expecting twins boys anyday now.our three kids cant wait to meet them.our two girl and our husband cant wait to coach me and to cut the cord.


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