Birth and Breastfeeding
Rediscovering the Needs of Women during Pregnancy and Childbirth
Humanity, argues Michel Odent, stands at a crossroads
in the history of childbirth - and the direction we choose
to take will have critical consequences. Until recently a
woman could not have had a baby without releasing a
complex cocktail of "love hormones." In many societies
today, most women give birth without relying on the
release of such a flow of hormones. Some give birth
via caesarean section, while others use drugs that not
only block the release of these natural substances,
but also do not have their beneficial behavioral effects.
"This unprecedented situation must be considered in
terms of civilization," says Odent.
It gives us urgent new reasons to rediscover the basic
needs of women in labor.
At a time when pleas for the "humanization"
of childbirth are fashionable, the author suggests,
rather, that we should first accept our "mammalian"
condition and give priority to the woman's need for
privacy and to feel secure. The activity of the intellect,
the use of language, and many cultural beliefs and rituals
--which are all special to humans--are handicaps in the
period surrounding birth. Says Odent:"To give birth to
her baby, the mother needs privacy. She needs to feel
unobserved. The newborn baby needs the skin of the
mother, the smell of the mother, her breast.
These are all needs that we hold in common with the
other mammals, but which humans have learned to
neglect, to ignore or even deny."
Expectant parents, midwives, childbirth educators,
those involved in public health, and all those interested
in the future of humanity will find this a provocative and
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