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The Research Project



A film giving more details about this public engagement project which took place between October 2011 and September 2012.


'Hiding in the Pub to Cutting the Cord' was a research project examining the ways in which men have been involved in childbirth over the last half century. Nowadays, it is estimated that over 90 per cent of dads are there to witness this major event, but in the 1950s, it was considered 'unmanly' for men to be there. Who was there when you were born? And who helped welcome your child into the world?

This project took place at the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Warwick, and was conducted by Dr Laura King. The aim of the research was to uncover why such a dramatic change took place; what implications this had for fathers, mothers and babies, and the relationships between them; and the ways in which hospital policy and social attitudes influenced people's behaviour. Key aspects of this research included interviews with midwives and a study of changing hospital procedures; analysis of what men have done at the time of birth - whether that be escaping to the golf course or acting as a birthing coach; and the various representations of this momentous event in popular culture, from Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em to Smithy in Gavin and Stacey. Has this shift in levels of attendance been caused by changes in the marital relationship or attitudes to fatherhood? How has the rise in the number of births taking place in hospitals rather than the home affected families' experiences? And what do men feel about their roles during the birth itself?

This project included a number of public events, including a production at Warwick Arts Centre, a documentary film, poetry workshops, an exhibition at the Coventry Mysteries and a conference for policy-makers, those working with parents in a professional context, and researchers.

Laura King is now continuing this research in a new post at the University of Leeds.