The Right to Challenge Tradition and Cultural Conditioning
by Michel Odent

[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article which appears in Midwifery Today, Issue 119, Autumn 2016. View other great articles and columns in the table of contents. To read the rest of this article, order your copy of Midwifery Today, Issue 119.]

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Lynsey Stone—dfwbirthphotographer.com

In the age of electric lights, the reasons to improve our understanding of melatonin release and melatonin properties are obvious. It is already well established that short-wavelength light (in practice “blue” light) is the most melatonin suppressive. This is an important fact, since it is the kind of light typically emitted by lamps in conventional delivery rooms. It is probable that, when birth physiology is better understood, there will be spectacular practical implications of these recent scientific advances. Can we imagine a time when it will be considered rational to give birth in the light of a candle?

After mentioning language and light, we might summarize the most important points by emphasizing that all attention-enhancing situations are stimulants of neocortical activity. This is the case of feeling observed; it implies that one of the basic needs of a laboring woman is privacy. The perception of a possible danger is another example of attention-enhancing situations; it implies that a laboring woman needs to feel secure. We’ll notice that similar conclusions can be reached when using as a starting point the concept of adrenaline-oxytocin antagonism.

Until now, the concept of neocortical inhibition has not reached the power to challenge the dominant paradigm we may call the helping-guiding-coaching-managing-supporting paradigm.


Michel Odent

Michel Odent, MD, has been in charge of the surgical unit and the maternity unit at the Pithiviers (France) state hospital (1962–1985) and is the founder of the Primal Health Research Centre (London). He is the author of the first articles in the medical literature about the initiation of lactation during the hour following birth and of the first article about use of birthing pools (The Lancet 1983). He created the Primal Health Research database. He is the author of 15 books published in 22 languages. His 2015 book, titled Do We Need Midwives?, is followed by an addendum titled Will Humanity Survive Medicine? Co-author of five academic books, he is also a contributing editor to Midwifery Today magazine. [ PHOTO BY PATTI RAMOS ]

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