Just what we need, another old white male “mansplaining” childbirth to us women

pushing a touch screen

A new article about Dr. Michel Odent has me pondering an interesting phenomenon.

Have you ever noticed that it is old white men who feel they must “mansplain” birth to us womenfolk?

What is “mansplaining”?

According to Wikipedia:

To explain (something) condescendingly (to a female listener), especially to explain something the listener already knows, presuming that she has an inferior understanding of it because she is a woman.

The father of childbirth mansplaining was Grantly Dick-Read, who freely admitted that his claims were intended to get women back into the kitchen and pregnant, instead of agitating for political and economic rights.

He was followed by a string of childbirth mansplainers:

Fernand Lamaze
Frederick LeBoyer
Robert Bradley (“Husband Coached Childbirth”)
Marsden Wagner

And, of course, Dr. Odent.

What are Odent’s qualifications for mansplaining childbirth to us womenfolk?

The self-proclaimed “childbirth specialist” is not an obstetrician. He’s a surgeon. As far as I can tell, he has no qualifications of any kind for issuing childbirth instructions beyond his “fascination (and adoration) of women and the way they have delivered babies since the beginning of time.” In other words, no qualifications at all.

He’s publicizing his latest book, Childbirth and the Future of Homo Sapiens.

But in and among the complex scientific jargon and references, are some light-bulb moments; some absolute gems that you will keep turning over in your mind for days. His book is a tinderbox that will infuriate both the pro-C-section lobbyists (babies born this way are five times more likely to suffer allergies he points out) and the natural birthers (infant death globally between birth and 28 days appears twice as high after planned homebirth than hospital birth).

Odent’s conclusion:

… [M]illennia of evolution has caused women to lose the ability to birth as nature intended (ideally, in his mind, alone except for one “knitting midwife”) and therefore our global priority should be “to rediscover the primary needs of laboring women.”

The newspaper reporter cautions:

But before we dismiss him as a kaftan-wearing loon who likes women to suffer, we should listen.

Okay, let’s listen. Then we can dismiss him as a kaftan-wearing loon who like women to suffer.

On oxytocin:

“Most women give birth now on a synthetic Oxytocin drip. It is the most common medical intervention in childbirth,” he explains. But with no long term studies on its side effects, he says: “We are playing with the Oxytocin systems of human beings without knowing what we are doing.”

Thanks to masses of recent research into its effects, medical science now accepts that natural Oxytocin is the ‘love’ hormone needed to initiate and maintain labour. Nicknamed the ‘shy’ hormone, it requires a dark, quiet, familiar and non-threatening environment in order to flow (the antithesis of noisy, brightly lit maternity wards with unknown faces coming and going). Its enemy is adrenalin – hence the increasing popularity of birthing mothers using hypnotherapy to stay calm and offset the negative effects of ‘fear, fight and flight.’

Odent is a fan of this type of Oxytocin (hence his claim that women should birth privately with a midwife who is so busy knitting that she doesn’t transmit her own adrenalin through the ‘mirror neurone complex’). The hormone ‘peaks’ moments after birth and causes the overwhelming sense of ‘love’ that some women report on seeing their baby.

But he is frankly terrified by the long term effects of synthetic Oxytocin (which suppresses the natural version) on babies, mothers and – controversially – their bond. Odent points out that autistic children produce less Oxytocin. He is incensed that “thousands of articles all over the world” have discussed the link between MMR jab and autism although there is no “valuable epidemiological study detecting correlations” between the two.

No long term studies on its effects? Literally tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions of women and babies have been exposed to synthetic oxytocin (which is an chemically identical to oxytocin produced in the body) over a period of 2 full generations, and we have yet to discern any harmful effects.

The rest of Odent’s claims are also unsubstantiated.

The enemy of oxytocin is adrenalin? Really? You know what dramatically increases adrenalin in labor? Pain! You know what dramatically decreases adrenalin in labor? Epidurals! According to Odent’s “reasoning,” every woman ought to have an epidural in labor.

Synthetic oxytocin suppresses the natural version? Really? Why would that be a problem? We only give synthetic oxytocin when there isn’t enough natural oxytocin to get the job done. And it works.

Oytocin causes the overwhelming sense of ‘love’ that some women report on seeing their baby? Where’s the evidence for that claim? There is no evidence. Odent simply made it up.

But wait! There’s more:

Odent is perhaps most famous for recently claiming that men should not attend births…

“It is only in the middle of the twentieth century that the birth environment became ‘masculinised’. The number of specialist doctors increased at lightening speed and almost all were men,” he writes.

Now that’s funny. Here’s a man complaining that childbirth has become masculinized while simultaneously pushing his masculine beliefs about childbirth. Ironic, no?

This book reads like a giant ‘I dare you’ to the medical world. He dares researchers to open the can of worms to ponder if ‘HOW’ we are born impacts on ‘WHO’ we become. And that in turn dares the obstetric world to treat women as sensitive yet capable mammalian beings rather than mere parts in a masculinised, medicalised production line of baby-makers pumped full of potentially harmful drugs.

His book asks if this is “utopian?”

No, it’s not utopian.

It’s classic fabricated, unsubstantiated mansplaining.