Men: If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the delivery room

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Andrew saw the head of the baby pushing through his wife’s birth canal. Suddenly the baby popped out and there was a gash of blood spilling all over the place. He got dizzy and blacked out.


The delivery of a baby is a natural mystery. It is the act of bringing a new person into the world, a person that has never been seen or heard of ever. It is history worth recording because one is only a newborn once. That day of delivery will thereafter be celebrated as a birthday. It is for this reason that most couples struggle with the idea of having the father of the baby in the delivery room so that he is part of the historic moment.

It is this logical argument that made Ann persuade her husband, Andrew, to join her in the delivery room and witness the birth of their firstborn. This was especially important for Ann because Andrew had a busy work schedule and did not manage to attend with her the pregnancy care clinics. 

“I wanted to pay for missing the clinics and so agreed to be with my wife during labour, and be the first to hold the baby,” Andrew says, “little did I know that the experience would damage my erections forever.” 

The baby was eight months old already but the couple was unable to resume their sex lives. Andrew did not have erections.

Andrew and Ann’s marriage was only one year and a half. Their pregnancy was planned and came eight months after the wedding. When time for delivery came, Ann was excited. The imagination of the baby coming, being called mama, leaving work early to go and play with the baby……it was all very exciting. She wanted her husband to be there at that historic moment. She would have him deliver the little jewel to her and put the baby on her breast, to breastfeed.

As expected, the day of reckoning came. Labour was not fun at all. The pain was unbearable and Ann felt that she would die at any moment. Andrew stayed in the labour room and rubbed her back to ease the pain. He was visibly stressed seeing his sweetheart in pain. For the six hours of the active labour Andrew did not eat or drink anything. He had no appetite. Even at that difficult moment, Ann felt lucky to have such a caring man. 

Soon the pain reached a climax. Ann was fully dilated and was due for delivery. The nurse wheeled her to the delivery room, Andrew following along, and that was the start of a life-changing experience for him. It was the first time for the couple to enter such a complex medical setting. There were machines everywhere: some making scary sounds, some dripping water and blood like stuff, while some had flashing lights. Ann’s pain was most intense at this point and she cared the least about what was around her. Andrew, on the other hand, noticed everything, and his pressure and anxiety were rising by the minute. The doctor and the nurses suddenly changed their dress code and put on face masks. There was a sense of urgency in the room and the doctor was giving orders to everyone and they were all running helter-skelter. 

Andrew saw the head of the baby pushing through his wife’s birth canal. Suddenly the baby popped out and there was a gash of blood spilling all over the place. He got dizzy and blacked out. When he regained consciousness, he was in a hospital bed admitted. He could not recall whatever had happened. He was told that he collapsed because of anxiety and low blood sugar and they had to give him a drip of glucose to regain consciousness.

At the end of it, the baby, mother, and father were discharged. They all recovered well in the next weeks except for one: the couple could not have sex. Andrew could not get an erection.

I diagnosed Andrew to have post-traumatic stress disorder that presented as sexual failure. I enrolled him for therapy together with Ann and gave him medicine to restart his failed erections. Three weeks later they were back on course.

The lesson from this experience was however clear: if you want to be in the delivery room you should start by attending pregnancy care clinics. In the clinic you will learn what to expect during labour and delivery; you will understand how to take care of yourself at that time so that you do not also end up with a health problem. Further, you will understand your role and how to be a better labour and birth companion. You will be advised on where to stand during delivery so that you do not obstruct health workers as they carry out their roles. Even more important, you will be able to do a self-evaluation so that you decide how much you want to be part of the delivery. 

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