Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord? Men’s involvement in childbirth since the 1950s in Britain


Laura King
(University of Leeds)

Once deemed ‘unmanly’, the presence of men at their children’s births is now understood to be near essential.  Whilst the Daily Mail in 1960 noted that ‘One in ten fathers is now in at the birth’, and a BBC programme of 1964 suggested a husband’s presence could bring about a more ‘intimate union’, most fathers were sent (or perhaps escaped) to the pub, golf course, or another such male space whilst his wife gave birth. By the 1990s, studies suggested that over ninety per cent of fathers were present when their child was born (Smith, 1995; National Childbirth Trust, 2000). This paper will examine this apparently rapid and dramatic transformation, as men’s presence in the delivery room became the norm in the 1970s and early 1980s. It will consider the shift in fathers attending some of the labour to the delivery itself, from passive observers to active participants, and how this became the norm across the country, in most birth scenarios and amongst all social groups. Here, the paper will examine the statistical evidence available, medical practitioners’ responses to this change, and narratives of birth from parents themselves.

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Wednesday, 29th October 2014, 12.45 pm – 2.00 pm
Venue: LG9, Keppel Street Building