If you've ever had the pleasure of meeting Michael Odent as a birth professional, then you'll know that 1) he's enthralling, captivating and just oozes that je ne sais quoi and 2) what he doesn't know about birth isn't worth knowing (in my humble opinion of course.) So when I noticed this article doing the rounds on Facebook by Monsieur Odent predicating that the rapid decline of women experiencing natural birth was down to meddling medics and their overzealousness to pop a line in, just incase or wheel mums down to theatre, I was super interested in what that meant to us as women the world over. Specifically, the angle I found myself pondering was this quote from Dr Odent in his recent interview: 'To me it demonstrates the obvious -- that women are losing the capacity to give birth.'
Is that really the case? Exploring further, I read that Michael Odent hypothesised amongst other things, that interfering with childbirth via the overuse of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) contributes to what is known in the birth world as the 'Cascade of Intervention'. It is this enduring recurrence of One Born Every Minute style birth that, if majority experience childbirth as medicated, we could potentially set off an alarming chain of permanent biological events. Much like some science bods are of the belief that texting will transgress to an oversized thumb and a redundant brain, Odent suggests that over time, the medicalization of childbirth using artificial hormones specifically, will render vaginal childbirth somewhat of a challenge, if it can be achieved at all. The reason? Odent postulates that our future babies heads will grow to such seismic proportions that making the journey earth-side via the pelvis will be impossible thus making the C-section the eventual modus operandi for giving birth.
Sure, I agree wholeheartedly with everything Dr Odent says however I would like to add something more. Women aren't failures at what they have been natural experts at since the very dawn of time. It is not women who are losing the ability to birth; it is our society that is succeeding at perpetuating the myth that childbirth is an act best left to the professionals. Women have gradually and successfully been brainwashed into believing that their bodies fail them, that they cannot achieve natural birth. Could we be missing a step here? From a feminist point of view, are women at risk of succumbing to intense subjugation last seen in Victorian times? I don't mean to go all David Ike here, but losing the ability to birth and breastfeed, to give and sustain life is something so tectonic there may not even be a word for what repercussions that would have on life, as we know it.
Let me explain....
If we as a society, treat every birthing mother as an accident waiting to happen, and err on the side of caution to the point we over rely on Pitocin / syntocinon which in turn triggers the cascade of intervention we will most definitely render the primary function of natural oxytocin obsolete. Evolutionary wise, if something doesn't serve us then its eradicated over time henceforth by interfering with birth via synthetics we're risking losing the ability to birth naturally and for this to be permanent. I'm saying I don't think that the first problem we have here is medics interfering. Modern birth environments and protocols don't give women the environment or the time they need to release the hormones that aid natural birth.
The armor women need is knowledge, and with knowledge comes power.
In 2015, the environment available to majority of women is counterproductive for birth and not based on what we know is best for mums. It is this that I think we as a society, should be pursing as an essential change to offset the very real risk of losing the beauty of childbirth. Why is this so?
Science tells us that birthing women, much like birthing animals, need quiet calm atmospheres with dim lighting and freedom to move around in order to produce oxytocin and natural pain blocker, endorphins. They need not to be startled by unfamiliar faces and they need to be supported quietly with calm birthing partners that they know and trust. In the right atmosphere with the right support, women will produce the hormones that aid a calm, comfortable birthing experience.
When I teach Hypnobirthing, I explain that natural oxytocin is a shy hormone and will only come out if the conditions are right. It is imperative that mums remain in the parasympathetic response because if they are hassled, questioned, coerced, frightened or under pressure, however well meaning it may be, the sympathetic fight or flight response kicks in, and birth hormones are shut down. Step in interventions. 'Let's just help you along a bit...'
Why, when we know so much about the physiology of birth do we and by that I mean society, each other, our friends, medics and the media continue to maim, hegemonies, subjugate and frighten women away from the idea of natural birth? This is the question we need to collectively be asking.
The birthing environment in hospitals need a drastic overhaul back to what we know works best for natural birth, lets start working with evidence and science in the very best way possible, back to the darkened room