Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities

An interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculties of Arts and Medicine & Health at the University of Leeds

‘Hiding in the pub to cutting the cord? Fathers’ participation in childbirth in Britain since the 1950s’ 4 June, 2013


‘Hiding in the pub to cutting the cord? Fathers’ participation in childbirth in Britain since the 1950s’
Dr Laura King, School of History, University of Leeds

Tuesday 4 June, 5pm-6pm
Centre for Medical Humanities

All are welcome to the next in this semester’s Medical Humanities seminar series.

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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 consider the causes of such a rapid and dramatic transformation, as men’s presence in the delivery room became the norm in the 1970s and early 1980s. Within this, the paper 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.

Laura King is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Leeds, located in both the School of History and within the Arts Engaged project. Having completed a PhD at the University of Sheffield in 2011, she then moved to the Centre of the History of Medicine, University of Warwick to run a public engagement project. Since moving to Leeds in October 2012, she has been writing up her doctoral research on fatherhood in Britain between the First World War and the 1950s, to be published as a monograph with Oxford University Press, and pursuing new research on men’s involvement in pregnancy, childbirth and early infant care since the 1950s, on which this paper is based.

The Centre for Medical Humanities is located in the basement of the School of English, with the entrance in the School of English foyer.

Any queries, please contact Clare Barker (c.f.barkerATleeds.ac.uk)

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