S01 E03: ‘Can humanity survive socialised birth?’ & the science of birth physiology – Michel Odent

Aug 1, 2023 | birth, pregnancy

Podcast description and links

In our 3rd episode I have the great pleasure of talking to Michel Odent, a remarkable writer and pioneer in the field of childbirth who at 93 years old is still challenging current cultural beliefs and the structures of the medical system.

He is the author of 16 books including ‘Birth Reborn: What Childbirth Should Be’, ‘Childbirth & the Future of Homo Sapiens’, ‘Do We Need Midwives?’, ‘Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth’. 

His latest book is ‘Can humanity survive socialized birth?’ was published a month ago shortly after the recording of this interview. 

Michel has been tirelessly active for over 45 years (and still is at 93!) writing books, publishing scientific articles, giving hundreds of talks, workshops, and also running courses. He founded the Primal Health Research Centre in London and has been a member of the Professional Advisory Board of the La Leche League International.

I attended his paramanadoula course in 2013 with his co-conspirator Liliana Lammers prior to the birth of my daughter in 2015 and I credit that I wasn’t afraid of the birthing process and that I had a first homebirth at age 39 to their wonderful generosity in sharing their knowledge and experience with a lot of humour.

In this episode we hear about his journey from surgeon to obstetrician revamping the birthing unit in a French hospital in 1962 and ultimately his way to pioneering and rediscovering what childbirth could be.

Furthermore he talks about: 

  • The history of childbirth and how childbirth became socialised when humanity entered the neolithic from the paleolithic period and we are now reaching the limits of the domination of nature. 
  • The role of neocortical inhibition in human childbirth and how important it is to avoid neocortical stimulation through language, bright lights, attention and fear during labour. 
  • How we play ‘apprentice sorcerers’ by cutting labour short (or out completely by pre-labour c-section) and how there is currently a ‘pandemic’ of labour induction.
  • The interplay between melatonin and oxytocin.
  • The placenta participating in labour releasing allopregnanolone which act on GABA receptors to inhibit the neocortex.
  • The foetus participating in the birthing process by releasing surfactant into the amniotic fluid when it is ready to be born.
  • How the vernix caseosa is also found in sea mammals and how scientist are now finding that, by the foetus swallowing the vernix, it plays and important role for establishing the baby’s new gut flora.

Hope you enjoy and the conversation gives you as much new food for thought as it has given me. <3

Michel’s resume via his publishers and list of books:

Article in the Guardian about the subject of Michel’s latest book ‘Can humanity survive socialised birth?’:


Michel on Wikipedia:

Another resume about Michel:

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A transcript of the podcast episode is available here:

Music by 12Volt, with great thanks to my friend Sascha Usison.

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