If you have heard of fathers spiraling into depression and suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following the witnessing of their baby’s birth, your first reaction was probably one of shock and repulsion. What? — you say — Are you kidding me? Who are these fathers to claim they are scarred for life when their wives are the ones who went through months of back aches, morning sickness and mood swings in addition to the painful delivery itself?
But research done by Oxford University revealed that fathers do in fact suffer trauma during childbirth, especially when their wives had to undergo complicated surgery. The dads also admitted that they felt unable to voice their feelings as they felt their main focus should be on looking after mom and baby.
Do fathers experience childbirth trauma?
Childbirth trauma for fathers: Does it exist?
For too long, fathers have been the missing piece of the puzzle in the childbirth process. When baby delivery comes to mind, we all picture a mother and her child, coldly cropping out the father figure in the process, although often unintentionally. Left out of the birthing loop not just by such archetypal stereotypes, fathers are also often neglected by medical care personnel too when doctors and nurses fail to update daddy on the status of his beloved wife and child.
Similarly, a father who accompanies his wife into the delivery room might also be shocked by his pain-stricken partner and the massive amount of blood and tension. Standing by a corner, unsure of what to do and how to make his screaming wife feel better, it is little wonder that fathers snap under the immense and mounting pressure.
Childbirth trauma for fathers: Why such stress develops
What was initially blood-boiling slowly becomes understandable when we realize how frequently and unacceptably we overlook daddy when considering something like childbirth, an idea so fundamentally female. It is commonplace to see fathers waiting outside the delivery room with no clue whether his wife and baby are alive or not.
Imagine this — You are a first time father and waiting outside while your wife is giving birth. Beads of sweat and worry pour down your forehead as you wring your hands nervously, fearing the worst might happen to your family. Two nurses walk out of the room and your heart stops as you see them with an empty incubator. You peer behind the doors and see a colossal mass of fresh blood amid a palm sized object on the table. Your wife is out of sight.
Frightening, isn’t it? This was the true account of a young man who saw his wife’s delivered placenta on the table and panicked when he mistook it as his dead baby because no cared to update him on the latest of his wife and child. To be put through long agonizing waits and hours of newsless torment is enough to drive the poor father crazy, much less suffer the reverberations of post traumatic stress due to childbirth.
Care for dads, please
While it is a social generalization that most Asian dads portray a distant and almost authoritarian identity in the household, we need to understand that fathers do play a key role in active parenting and support during childbirth too.
Is there truly nothing that can be done to help these hapless dads? While childbirth may pose risks of trauma for clueless dads, we believe that it is entirely preventable and rectifiable with the help of more personable medical care.
At first glance, many may scoff at the overreaction on the parts of these new fathers, but we gradually empathize with their woes and chorus with them in a bid for better postnatal care for dads. After all, they aren’t asking for much — All they want is just to be kept in the know of their loved ones.
Also read: Husband’s support during pregnancy: A guide for all expecting fathers
Republished with permission from theAsianParent Singapore