Obstetrician Michel Odent MD discusses what he has come to know as the best possible environment for a woman to give birth: alone with her midwife or doula, in silence. Odent believes that the midwife or doula’s primary role is to be a mother figure who creates a relaxing environment for the woman to give birth by maintaining her own sense of calm.
The best environment I know for an easy birth is when there is nobody around the woman in labor but an experienced midwife or doula – an experienced mother figure who is there, and who can remain silent. Silence is a basic need for a woman in labor. Privacy is another basic need.
When a woman is in labor by herself, with just the mother figure, she does not feel observed. You are not shy with your mother. The laboring woman feels secure, and I must say that until now this is the best environment I know for an easy birth. Nobody around but an experienced mother figure – a midwife or a doula, and nobody else.
We have to rediscover what is simple. During the 20th century, many schools of natural childbirth were based on theories that today are unacceptable, and that made things so complicated. So we have to rediscover what is simple. I learned what is simple with my very first experience of childbirth as a medical student in 1953. At that time, a midwife had nothing to do. She was spending her life knitting. So, she was knitting when she was waiting for the baby, knitting when waiting for the placenta, knitting when there was no woman in labor. She had nothing else to do. In that respect, I realized the value of this traditional attitude.
Some scientists at Cambridge University in the UK explored the philological responses to a repetitive task. As an example of a repetitive task, they studied the task of knitting. When you are doing a repetitive task like knitting, you reduce your level of adrenaline. And that is the key to an easy birth – when the level of adrenaline of the midwife is low, because she is contagious. That helps the woman in labor to also be in a state of relaxation… and finally the birth is easier.
Today when I am going to a home birth its always with the same doula. This doula has [herself] had three home births with me in the past. In general when I am at a home birth with her today, I stay in the kitchen making the man (the baby’s father) busy – talking, finding topics of conversation, different things to do… leaving the two women together in another part of the house. This doula has an incredible capacity to remain silent – to keep her mouth closed. That is how I am relearning again what is simple.
The best possible environment for an easy birth is when there is nobody around but an experienced mother figure who can remain silent.
Michel Odent, MD, is known as the obstetrician who introduced the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms. He has published 21 books, including The Scientification of Love, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, and The Cesarean.
This excerpt from an interview with Michel Odent, MD is transcribed and posted here with permission from Mindful Mama Magazine.
Image Source: Faces of Birth