Michel Odent - Marrying the science of birth and intuition

By Natalie Rees

Today on the show I speak with 90 year old, French obstetrician Michel Odent. Michel has dedicated his life to studying the primal period of life, that being fetal life, birth and the months following. Michele marries together what we know intuitively as Mothers with science. He has wrote many, many, books including; Primal health, Do we need midwives and The future of homo. Michel is incredibly knowledgable and just has so much to share. I had a lot to ask him and we only hit the tip of the iceberg in this interview, but he’s promised to come back again. He’s a warm, generous and fascinating man. Biography: Michel Odent studied medicine in Paris and was educated as a surgeon. He has been presented in Lancet as “one of the last real general surgeons”. Dr. Odent was in charge of the surgical and maternity units of the Pithiviers Hospital (France) from 1962 to 1985, where he developed a special interest in environmental factors influencing the birth process. He introduced concepts like home-like birthing rooms and birthing pools in maternity hospitals, and singing sessions for pregnant women. After his hospital career he was involved in home birth. He founded the Primal Health Research Centre in London, and designed a database (primalhealthhresearch.org) in order to compile epidemiological studies. These studies explore correlations between what happens during the “Primal period” and health later on. Odent is the author of the first articles about the initiation of breastfeeding during the hour following birth, the first article about the use of birthing pools during labor, and the first article applying the “Gate Control Theory of Pain” to obstetrics. In a book published in 1986 (“Primal Health”), he provided evidence that homeostasis is established during the “primal period” (fetal life, birth and the months following birth): this is the phase of life when human basic adaptive systems are adjusting their “set point levels”. Odent is the author of 13 books published in 22 languages. In his books he constantly refers to the concept of reduced neocortical activity as a key to rediscover the basic needs of laboring women and to make possible a real “fetus ejection reflex”.

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