Modern Fatherhood: Changing, but Not Necessarily for the Better

emergency births can lead to ptsd for dads

Two of the most cherished parts of becoming a modern father—witnessing the birth of his baby and cutting the umbilical cord—are coming under attack.

In the first case, researchers at Oxford University found that some dads who witnessed life-threatening, traumatic, or especially complicated labors and births were more affected by what they’d seen than the women who actually went through it. So affected, in fact, that they were diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that’s usually associated with combat veterans or people who’ve undergone major trauma—exactly what a lot of these new dads have done.

emergency births can lead to ptsd for modern fathersNow, before you scoff, consider a typical emergency scenario (if there is such a thing) where the modern father is suddenly faced with an unconscious, bleeding wife, abruptly pushed out of the way by medical staff, and left alone outside an operating room with little or no information about her fate or that of the baby, fearing the worst and not being able to help. “For the dads, it’s extremely vivid because they are fully aware of what’s going on” said As lead researcher Professor Marian Knight put it in an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper. “Many of these emergencies involve severe bleeding… “Often, we’re running around trying to save mum’s life, but we need to be thinking about dads as well.”

modern fathers should wait before cutting the cord to reduce blood lossNow, on to the cord cutting–another staple of modern fatherhood. Not to worry, dads, you’ll still be able to do it. But experts are suggesting that you wait until the cord stops pulsating. The reason, say doctors in England, is that up to a third of the baby’s blood supply is still in the umbilical cord and placenta and cutting the cord immediately could lower the baby’s iron levels for as long as six months. Iron levels have been linked in some research with brain development. By waiting for 30 seconds to five minutes, you’ll be ensure that your baby’s tank has been fully topped off. There are some medical conditions that require that the cord be cut immediately.

If you’re interested in delaying the cord cut for a few minutes after the birth, talk it over with the nursing staff and doctors early. But be flexible. If they feel it needs to be done sooner, do it. If you’re intrigued by the idea of waiting, you might also want to check out what’s being called lotus births (Google it), where the umbilical cord doesn’t get cut for as long as 10 days. Sounds a little extreme to me, but some new-agey moms swear by it. Definitely not for everyone. But I suppose as long as it isn’t dangerous, it’s okay.

Trauma training aid

Caesar Trauma Training Simulator

Is your child using his head? Maybe he shouldn’t be

When I was about 10, I was playing on a  little league baseball team. In one game I lost a fly ball in the sun and the ball hit me in the head. I lost consciousness for a few seconds, which was probably a good thing since getting hit in the head with a fly ball was one of the most embarrassing moments of my young life. My dad took me to the emergency room and they sent me home after a few hours of observation. Fortunately, no concussion.

I was pretty lucky, but thousands of other kids aren’t. Some get their brain rattled in a fall, others playing sports. Even activities people thought were safe, like heading a soccer ball, interestingly, can produce a concussion (heading has actually been linked to brain damage).

Concussions are definitely not something you can just shake off and go back to whatever you were doing when it happened (assuming you can remember what that was). For most kids, the symptoms go away within a few months, but for 10-20 percent of young concussion survivors, symptoms–including forgetfulness, fatigue, difficulty paying attention, balance problems, and headaches–can last a year or longer.

If your child has received a good smack on the head, it’s important to pay attention to his or her behavior afterwards. If your child exhibits any concussion symptoms (different sleeping patterns, mood changes, problems with thinking and decision making) the CDC recommends that you get in to see the child’s pediatrician. And if the child is complains of headaches that won’t go away, seems to been uncoordinated, vomits or is nauseous, slurs his speech, or won’t eat or nurse, get in your can and head off to the hospital right away.

There’s an abstract of the full study, which was published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, here: http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/archpediatrics.2011.1082