How we Birth – New Insights by Dr. Odent

How we Birth – New Insights by Dr. Odent

Berlin was lucky to have renowned obstetrician Dr Michel Odent as a visitor not only once but twice within the past year, thanks to Camalo Gaskin’s Birth to Birth Talks program. We had the pleasure of attending both of these enlightening events and were thrilled to be able to learn from the long and rich experience of London Doula Liliana Lammers and IBCLC Indira Gomez Lopez, alongside deepening the conversation with Dr Odent at the most recent event- a three-day symposium with the intriguing title ‘How We Birth’.


So how should we birth? According to Dr Odent, all a woman needs to give birth is a small, dimly-lit warm room with an experienced midwife sitting in the corner, knitting but otherwise silent. Controversial as it may seem, there are very sound scientific reasons behind Dr Odent’s claims: Each of these outside factors has an impact on the delicate hormonal balance of birth. Odent argues that an undisturbed birth, in a familiar environment leads for the most part to the woman being able to disengage her neocortex or ‘thinking brain’, thus allowing her body to do what nature intended. Nature’s intention was a quick and relatively painless birth via what Dr Odent calls the ‘fetus ejection reflex’, which is an absolutely involuntary process, not requiring any intervention.


At the ‘How We Birth’ Symposium, Dr Odent’s science was backed up with anecdotes from Liliana Lammers, who has been active as a Doula in London for over 17 years. Regaling us with stories of women giving birth themselves in the bathroom, the midwife already on her way, catching babies and distracting distressed husbands, Lammers revealed herself as a true ‘protector of birth’.


All of this begs the question- is how we birth in modern society against our nature as mammals? It has already been shown that human beings are the only mammal that transports antibodies via the placenta- all other mammals pass on their antibodies only in the colostrum that the baby receives post-birth.

In the history of many cultures, colostrum was considered to be dangerous, even fatal for the newborn. Breastfeeding was delayed until the ‘real milk’ came in and babies were given to a different lactating woman than the mother to suckle (or given an alternative!). If antibodies were not passed on to our children via the placenta, the human race could have wiped itself out. Could we have evolved in this way in order to ensure the future of our species?


Further, we no longer give birth in the bacterially familiar environment that is our home, which means that our babies are much more at risk of being exposed to dangerous bacteria and antigens (such as MRSA, for example). In addition, elective Caesarian section has become the cultural norm in many areas of the world, meaning that our babies miss out on being colonized by various important bacteria whilst passing through the birth canal. If that wasn’t enough, breastfeeding can often be delayed or never established, meaning that babies are not given the valuable antibodies and vital bacteria in their mothers’ colostrum/ on their mother’s breast.


It’s clear that infant mortality rates have decreased substantially as a result of modern medicine and for risk pregnancies and births, hospital is definitely the right place and caesarean section is a lifesaving operation for both mother and child. However when hospital birth becomes the norm, Dr Odent seems to be making the argument that we are moving away from natural birth and introducing factors that complicate rather than facilitate birth as it was meant to be according to nature.


We would love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think how we birth now has a long term impact on our species’ ability to give birth in a natural way?

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