Female Brain vs. Male Brain

I read these two articles, and thought they were just really interesting. Of course, it only makes sense that men and women are different — not just their obvious physical differences, but also how their brains are different, and process things differently.

While these two articles don’t talk about pregnancy, labor, or birth, some of the things in these articles made me think about being in labor, and how men and women can process things totally differently. It also explains why women many times will do best if they have another woman there — sometimes just to be there. Women pick up more subtle language and visual clues than men do. Men call it “female intuition” because they don’t understand how we can “just know” some things. Often, we can’t even put our finger on what exactly made us think a certain way, or realize how something was — we just knew it was.

Men tend to take in “the big picture” — “just the facts, ma’am” kind of thinking. In labor, this translates to making sure all the machines and numbers are in line; and if they’re all right, then everything must be just fine — as if the woman is a machine or a robot. Women clue in to more subtle things — little comments (or lack thereof), gestures, facial expressions — things that machines don’t pick up on.

So, women, don’t get upset if your husband just doesn’t understand things like your female friends do. He’s not mean or thick-skulled — his brain is just hardwired differently, and he can’t help it. While some men will be very intuitive toward their wives when they’re in labor, other men will not be. If you are expecting your husband to be something he cannot be, you will be setting yourself and your husband up for a fall. If you think your husband might not be this kind of labor-support person, please discuss it with him, and also consider having a doula. And cut him some slack during labor. What is glaringly obvious to you (“I need my back rubbed!” “Get me some water!!” “Get out of my face and leave me alone!!!”) is not so obvious to him.

If you are still pregnant, take this knowledge into labor with you. If you’ve already had your baby, try to reevaluate your husband’s labor skills (or lack thereof) in light of this new knowledge. If he was less than perfect in labor, that’s normal. Now you know why women have been traditionally the only people present in labor and at birth. It’s a female thing — men don’t understand. (Gross exaggeration, but generally true.)


3 Responses

  1. Kathy,

    I just read your post and it evoked many responses in my mind. I and my wife run wellness programs for would-be mothers and new moms in India, and use Lamaze philosophy as the foundation of our program which we have adapted to Indian conditions and sensitivities.

    Our two sons were born in the US (10 and 8 ) were C-Section (emergency) and a VBAC. We are passionate about natural birthing and about reclaiming centuries old best practices that were prevalent in India to help women give birth. In the early days, it did take a village to help a woman give birth and to raise a child.

    I dont know if I was perfect in labor and during my kids’ birth (I was physically present during both occasions). But I have the same zeal and enthusiasm as anyone else in ensuring childbirth is not over-medicalized. I am sure that men too are concerned about this and want to do something.

    However, I dont see (or maybe I dont know about) many men being at the forefront of this effort, though in many videos that I have seen, husbands and partners seem to be very much in favor of normal birth for their baby. In our classes, 100% of our dads want a normal birth for their babies.

    Looking at some of the postings at many blogsites I sometimes wonder if the natural birthing movement is in danger of taking on a radical shape. Could that be a reason why men are shying away from being vocal about this issue?


    Krishnan Sakotai
    Healthy Mother Wellness & Care
    Blog: healthymother.wordpress.com

  2. I think that men *want* to help, but often don’t know what to do, and their efforts can easily be taken the wrong way by the laboring woman. I’ve read several stories of women whose husbands were just perfect during labor; mine was not, though he tried his best. I’m sure that many men have been “burned” before, so might be reticent about it; but also it’s just not something men talk about much! Maybe my husband’s brothers did, but I was never aware of them pulling him aside and saying, “Hey, bro, when your wife is in labor, whatever you do, don’t do *this*” or anything of the sort.

    I think that it’s a cyclical thing — men don’t talk about it, so other men don’t know about it, so they don’t talk about it either — it just feeds off of itself. Some men are talking about it, though — there’s a video recently released called “The Other Side of the Glass” in which men explore their feelings about labor, birth, and (especially) postpartum in the hospital — the “glass” being the nursery window that kept them away from their babies.

    I hope that the next generation may be better prepared — I plan on teaching my sons about this.

  3. I am sure that you will do an excellent job of educating your sons about sensitivities that men need to acquire in order to become true partners in childbirth. We know that our sons already know a lot about and comment about childbirth in innocence now. Hopefully they will be more informed about this as they grow up.

    Recently, my wife attended the Lamaze Conference (in your neighboring state of Kentucky) where she saw a wonderful film titled “Pregnant in America”. This moving and well-researched film is about the film maker and his wife’s experiences as they crisscross across America, visit Holland, talk to other expectant parents (one of who opts to deliver in Canada instead of in the US because their insurance will not pay for a VBAC), and so on.

    My wife tells me that this is a great film, done from a dad’s perspective, and will hopefully get more men involved in the whole process of childbirth in a proactive and positive way. The film is yet to be released – you can get more information on their website – http://www.pregnantinamerica.com


    Krishnan Sakotai

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