Michel Odent, MD, is usually presented as a pioneer who has influenced the history of childbirth.
Born in a French village in 1930, Odent studied medicine in Paris and was educated as a surgeon in the 1950s. He has been presented in Lancet as “one of the last real general surgeons”.(1)
In charge of the surgical and maternity units of the Pithiviers hospital (France) from 1962 to 1985, Odent has developed a special interest in environmental factors influencing the birth process.(2) He introduced the concepts home like birthing rooms, birthing pools and singing sessions for pregnant women. After his hospital career he was involved in home birth, founded in London the Primal Health Research Centre, and designed a database (primalhealthhresearch.org) in order to compile epidemiological studies exploring 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(3,4), the first article about the use of birthing pools during labour(5), and the first article applying the “Gate Control Theory of Pain” to obstetrics.(6) 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 currently focusing on the possible evolution of Homo sapiens in relation to the modern ways to be born.(7,8) Odent is the author of 13 books published in 22 languages. In his books he is constantly referring to the concept of reduced neocortical activity as a key to rediscover the basic needs of labouring women and to make possible a real “fetus ejection reflex”.
His books include:
- Birth Reborn (1984, Pantheon, NY)
- Primal Health (1986. Century Hutchinson. London)
- The Farmer and the Obstetrician (Free Association Books www.fabooks.com)
- The Caesarean (Free Association Books www.fabooks.com )
- The Scientification of Love (Free Association Books www.fabooks.com)
- The Functions of the Orgasms: The Highways to Transcendence (2009, Pinter & Martin Ltd.)
- Childbirth in the Age of Plastics (2011, Pinter & Martin Ltd.)
- Childbirth and the Future of Home sapiens (2013, Pinter & Martin Ltd.)
1- Lifeline. About Michel Odent. Lancet 1999;353:764.
2-Gillett J. Childbirth in Pithiviers, France. Lancet, October 27, 1979:894-896.
3-Odent M. The early expression of the rooting reflex. Proceedings of the 5th International Congress of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rome 1977. London: Academic Press, 1977: 1117-19.
4-Odent M. L’expression précoce du réflexe de fouissement. In : Les cahiers du nouveau-né 1978 ; 1-2 : 169-185
5-Odent M. Birth under water. Lancet 1983: pp1476-77.
6-Odent M. La reflexotherapie lombaire. Efficacité dans le traitement de la colique néphrétique et en analgésie obstétricale. La Nouvelle Presse Medicale 1975 ; 4 (3) :188
7-Odent M. Childbirth and the Future of Homo sapiens. Pinter & Martin. London 2013.
8-Odent M. What about the future of Homo sapiens? Human Evolution 2013 (in Press).
9- Odent M. The fetus ejection reflex. Birth 1987;14(2):104-105.