Want Quick, Painless Childbirth? Stop Overthinking It, Says Expert

2 September 2015

Giving birth

We were talking childbirth in the Playpennies office today, as we so often do - best you don't ask - when up cropped the subject of Dr. Michael Odent's controversial comments on the topic.

Somehow I managed to miss them when they first hit the headlines a few weeks ago, but here's how the Daily Mail covered what he had to say:

Speaking to New Scientist, he said: ‘A woman in labour needs to be protected against all possible stimulation of her thinking brain, because giving birth is the business of the primitive brain structures.

Here, the body does all the work and the woman simply lies back while it happens.

He explained: ‘If nobody is interfering there will be a short series of irresistible contractions, no voluntary movements at all.

He went on to add that if women were able to think less during labour, a phenomenon called the ‘foetus ejection reflex’ could happen, whereby the baby 'slips out with no conscious effort' on the part of the mother.

Now let me preface my views on this by saying that I had quick and natural deliveries with all three of my kids - we're talking under thirty minutes from hospital car park to post-birth cuppa with my third - so I know a thing or three when it comes to 'quick and easy' labours and deliveries. But with every respect to Dr Odent - who is a world-famous obstetrician and childbirth specialist - I'm just not really feeling this.
Factor in that Dr Odent also seems to think we'd fare better in the delivery room if dads weren't around to distract us, and it's safe to say that I probably won't be rushing off to buy his new book any time soon.
Apparently the premise is that we should birth without dads in the room so that we can switch off our brains and 'let go' properly. But speaking personally, the idea of going through labour without my husband's supportive presence just doesn't bear thinking about it. He's pretty much what got me through it, all three times!
What's more, many mums end up not having the labour or birth experience that they hope for, never mind the one they planned. Lots of my friends ended up having emergency c-sections, for example, and I'm fairly certain they wouldn't take too kindly to the notion that 'switching off their brains' could have changed that for them.
I suspect some news coverage of Dr Odent's ideas focuses on angles that make for good stories rather than delving deeply enough into his points to warrant a really thorough analysis of what he's saying, but thus far I'm unconvinced that leaving my brain outside the delivery room door - were that even possible - would somehow improve my baby's entrance into the world.
That said, I find this summing up, in the Telegraph, of Dr Odent's thinking really compelling:

"This book reads like a giant ‘I dare you’ to the medical world. He dares researchers to open the can of worms to ponder if ‘HOW’ we are born impacts on ‘WHO’ we become. And that in turn dares the obstetric world to treat women as sensitive yet capable mammalian beings rather than mere parts in a masculinised, medicalised production line of baby-makers pumped full of potentially harmful drugs."

But enough about me; we'd love to hear your thoughts on Dr Odent's comments. Can you see some wisdom in what he says, or does the notion of switching off your brain so that you baby can pop out with minimal effort strike you as somewhat strange? Do come and share your thoughts over on our Facebook page...

TOPICS:   Parents

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