Michel Odent, MD, is known as the French obstetrician who introduced the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms to hospitals. He has published 21 books over his career, including The Scientification of Love, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, and The Cesarean. This week, Dr. Odent shares his personal insight about creating an ideal birth environment.
The best advice for an easy birth is for the parents to have nobody around except for an experienced mother figure, a midwife and a doula. We have to re-discover what is simple. Privacy matters during labor.
During the twentieth century, many schools of childbirth were based on theories that today are unacceptable. We make things so complicated. I learned this with my very fist experience of childbirth as a medical student in 1953. At that time, a midwife had nothing to “do”. She was spending her life knitting – knitting while waiting for the baby, knitting while there was no woman in labor – she had nothing else to “do”, and in that respect I realized the value of this tradition and attitude.
At Cambridge University, some scientist explored the physiological responses to repetitive tasks. As an example of a repetitive task, they studied knitting. When you are doing a repetitive task like knitting you reduce your level of adrenaline and that’s the key for an easy birth – when the level of adrenaline of the midwife is low, it’s contagious. This helps the woman in labor to be in a state of relaxation and the birth is easier.
And today, I’m still learning what is simple. I have been attending homebirths accompanied by a doula. Yes, I am a doctor, but this doula is the mother of four children. I generally stay in the kitchen keeping the man busy, the baby’s father. Finding topics of conversation, different things to do – leaving the two women together in another part of the house.
The doula does most of the work. She has an incredible capacity to remain silent – to keep her mouth closed – and that’s how I’m re-learning again what is simple. I have come to understand – again and again – that the best possible environment for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the parents but an experienced midwife, doula, and experienced mother figure who can remain silent.
How did you ensure birth went according to your plan?