Letter: Supportive fathers

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Sir There was nothing in the National Childbirth Trust survey on Birth in Britain about men fainting, being sick, needing medical treatment or distracting midwives ("Fathers seen as a nuisance at births", 15 September).

The survey found that while 84 per cent of women had their partner present, only 59 per cent said their partner was supportive. This raises interesting issues about what support women need in labour and who may be best able to provide it. It also raises questions about how well prepared men are for their partner being in pain and for giving support.

The Audit Commission found that 25 per cent of women were left alone in labour at a time when it worried them not to have the support of a health professional. We need more midwives so that men are not being asked to do the impossible job of providing reassurance at a time when they themselves may feel anxious and out of their depth.

We also need more discussion during pregnancy about which individuals might provide support alongside the midwife - partner, friend or both - and what preparation they need for the role.

MARY NEWBURN

Head of Policy Research

National Childbirth Trust

London W3

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