A leading French obstetrician, Dr Michel Odent is worried that women might soon be at serious risk of being uble to give birth turally or breast-feed their babies in the none-too-distant future. In a book titled Do We Need Midwives? to be published this summer, Dr Odent argues that so many pregnt women are given drugs, chemicals or surgery in labour, that future generations are at risk of losing their tural ability to push babies out of themselves uided. He said that there is already evidence that women are taking longer to give birth than in the past. “Women are losing the capacity to give birth and they are losing the capacity to breast-feed,” says Dr Odent. “That is the primary phenomenon... The number of women who give birth to babies turally is becoming insignificant,” he adds. He is critical of the rise in cesarean sections and the growing use of synthetic oxytocin. He believes that as a result of this trend, women’s tural ability to produce oxytocin (which initiates labour and plays a crucial role in breast-feeding) is declining. He adds that evolution will eventually erase physiological functions that are underused. In a contribution to another new book, he says: “I believe that the human oxytocin system—oxytocin being the hormone of love, fundamental to birth and bonding, even in adulthood—is growing weaker. The future of the human capacity to give birth is at risk.” Dr Odent has cited two research studies in support of his theory. One shows that on an average women took two hours longer in the first stage of labour between 2002 and 2008 than between 1959 and 1966. “To me it demonstrates the obvious—that women are losing the capacity to give birth.” Dr Odent also refers to an American study of 14,000 college students, which revealed a declining capacity for empathy. The 30-year study, from 1979 to 2009, showed that six years ago, college students were 40 per cent less empathetic than their counterparts in the 1980s and 1990s. This, according to him, supports an argument that oxytocin levels are weakening. In India, one can see reduced oxytocin levels in urban women, underscoring the divide between the haves and have-nots in yet another way. Educated urban women are more likely to lose their ability to give tural birth and to breast-feed their babies, whereas rural women will continue to give birth to babies without benefit of cesarean sections and also continue the healthy practice of breast-feeding.
Is tural Birth Passé?