Could Women One Day Lose The Ability To Breastfeed And Give Birth Naturally?

27 May 2015

Pregnant Bump

A new book by a leading French obstetrician, Dr. Michel Odent, has hit the headlines this week for seeming to suggest that women are in danger of losing the ability to both breastfeed and give birth naturally.

In his book Do We Need Midwives?, Dr. Odent, who pioneered the use of birthing pools during hospital deliveries, outlines how too many interventions when women are in labour are giving birth is having a knock-on effect on our capacity to deliver without medical intervention such as drugs and c-sections.

He writes:

“Women are losing the capacity to give birth and they are losing the capacity to breastfeed. The number of women who give birth to babies naturally is becoming insignificant.”

The Telegraph reports:

"Odent has also criticised the use of drips of synthetic oxytocin on women in labour. He suggested that it was reducing women’s ability to produce the hormone naturally. The oxytocin hormone initiates labour and plays a crucial role in breastfeeding. But evolution will erase physiological functions that are underused, said Odent, warning that future generations of women may not produce it."

Among the evidence he refers to, Odent points to research which shows that labours are generally longer than a generation ago, with women spending a further 2.5 hours in labour between the years 2002 to 2008 than compared to the years 1959 to 1966.

What's your view on this? Whether you had a very medicalised labour or a natural birth, and whatever your experience of breastfeeding, we'd love to hear your perspective on the issue over on our Facebook page.

Image credit: Flickr/Simon Powell

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