Sexism and Childbirth Choices

26 11 2011

QUESTION:  Is natural childbirth

sexist? Is medical childbirth sexist?

It depends. Before labeling, you really have to be fair and consider the source.

Michel Odent has been called or implied sexist by a certain infamous Dr. and anti-NCBers for providing info to empower women through realizing how to give birth naturally and the beauty of it.

The logic seems to be that he’s old, he’s a man, and anyone who would deny women of pain relief (medication) in childbirth is a sexist who believes women should suffer in childbirth. They also take issue that these philosophies “remove choices”, but I argue that a) so do anti NCBers, in trying to more strictly regulate birth options, and b) we are for INFORMED choices, but we disagree that all women’s choices are actually well-informed.

That’s not what natural birth is about, though. It’s not about being cruel and making women suffer. It’s not about removing WELL-informed choices. It’s about providing right info, and putting power that is life-altering back into the hands of women. If women knew just how powerful they were, this would actually be a threat to the patriarchy… !

So, no, I promise you, none of us thinks women should be in pain and suffering for their birth. In fact, I’ll be the first one to tell you to be kind to yourself. If the pain is unbearable to you, take the meds. And don’t be hard on yourself for making that choice. I don’t want to see women suffer, and I doubt that’s Odent’s intention, either.

So what IS this Odent physiology stuff about? It’s about the fact that women don’t automatically suffer just because the paternal obstetric model doesn’t relieve the poor, weak woman with pain meds. That’s right… not every woman is some poor, suffering child whose pain can only be relieved by some white (-coated) knight, who mercifully swoops in to bestow his paternal hit of drugs.

I have done it both ways (drugged and not). I have received pain meds and been ever so grateful. I have also wished I would lose consciousness and had an excruciating “natural” birth. And, I have been liberated from the cycle by owning my birth and surrendering to it– naturally and physiologically. Guess which birth was best?

I’m going to show you some things and then I want you to decide what is truly sexist: Giving power and information TO, or degrading and expecting less FROM?  These are merely examples of the rhetoric, and the personalities behind the rhetoric. Some opinions and values are shared by their friends, and some are not.

This is a point about what IS sexism and what IS real feminism; when people cry “sexist”, we need to consider the source.

[Values include: being a MILF (and making sure everyone knows you are)…]

Because only a twat would think that inductions weren't such great ideas.

Take away: Even Dr. Amy puts the smack down on rampant sexism coming from Aleah and friends.


This one needs explanation. Someone who left critical comments regarding my book also reviewed another book (which is what you are reading here, from Amazon). I think their words give added insight to their attitude towards feminism. I lump them in because these are all critics of NCB and usually self-proclaimed "feminists" or believers in equality and choice, and I think this is not always quite accurate.

These are just some examples of the differences between “sexism” in natural childbirth and sexism in anti-NCB. I know that some believers in natural birth happen to be sexist or perhaps even come from a women-as-subservient place, but you are certainly not finding any of that with me or Odent. We are champions of women, and it’s wrong to falsely paint these principles of biology as misogynist. I am a progressive, believe in freedom and equality, and have been called a feminist since I was a child– and I am proud of that. I believe women are amazing goddesses and deserve the utmost respect. I believe in a return to our innate maternal wisdom.

Okay, so Odent is a sexist for playing into woman’s birth goddess “fantasies” and putting women on a pedestal to encourage them to take back birth from the medical model, but people like those shown above are not sexist? Odent may have a penis, that is true. A man can be a feminist just as sure as a woman can be a chauvinist, however.

I’m not trying to be mean, honest. I’m just trying to say that…

It’s hard for me to really take seriously the opinions of people crying “misogynist” who think the standard of beauty is being a dyed blonde, breast job having, diamond wearing MILF nurse; who think “pushing a baby out your vag” is no big deal and even something to ridicule, and constantly calls people in a condescending tone “honey”, “love”, “sweetie”– when she isn’t busy using her favorite insult, “twat“. You dig what I’m saying?

Why should anyone take seriously opinions on Dr. Odent coming from these folks? All things considered, if these are your attitudes in life, your idea of what is “misogynist” falls a little flat with me. These to me are not true feminists and not actual advocates for women. These are the biggest misogynists of all. I certainly won’t listen to what SHE thinks WOMEN aren’t capable of. I wouldn’t even trust the limitations she puts on herself.

It’s worth noting that these are the same people who call my friend an “attention whore” for talking about her rape to explain her birth views, and bring it up as another source of ridicule.

These aren’t healthy, credible sources. Before you call misogyny, you must consider the source.

Okay, so, what is really sexist? The natural childbirth advocate who tells women how they can have the best birth for their self and their child without trauma? Or the anti-NCBer who tells women that they aren’t special and should shut up?

You decide. Who’s the sexist and who’s the feminist?

Are you for women, or are you against them? Do you believe in them, or do you think they are ridiculous?

You have to love yourself before you can love someone else. It seems we have an epidemic in our culture… a serious lack of understanding of our true worth.

If we’re going to give birth back to women, we need to start patching that up. You are not a pair of tits and a hair color. One day you’ll be old, or fat, or ugly. For now you are a youthful woman, perhaps fertile, certainly glorious and beautiful no matter who convinced you that you’re not. Your real power and beauty is something ageless and within. What’s it going to take to undo all this damage and convince our insecure women of this? Can it be undone?

Sorry, I wanted to keep this short, but I couldn’t leave you without ending it on this note.

How Music Can Hinder, Not Help, Your Labor

5 07 2011

Dr. Michel Odent talks a lot about the primal labor state and the neo-cortex. When giving birth naturally, the laboring woman enters a different state of consciousness. It is essential for us to allow ourselves to become immersed in this state in order to have a fearless, unhindered, natural labor with as little pain as possible (in some cases, none at all, and entering the realm of orgasmic).

Stimulation of the neo-cortex is then, in the case of a natural labor, the enemy.

The neo-cortex is the center for what we commonly consider our intellect. It is the part that allows us to be logical and also creates our sense of inhibition, giving us our civility and our modesty. When we are being stimulated intellectually or feel we are being watched, the neocortex is active. This is not conducive to a laboring woman getting in her right birth state. This leads to birth tensions and complications.

It is inadvisable to engage in discussion with the birthing woman. Mammals and females in labor need no distractions. They naturally focus inward and shut out the outside world. Dark, warm, quiet surroundings are critical for her to maintain this space of consciousness safely and have the best possible labor and birth experience/outcome. This is the physiology of birth that I am keen on referencing often. To not heed this would trigger her adrenaline, fight/flight, and lead to unnecessary complications and interventions.

Whether she intends to be stimulated or not, whether she consciously feels threatened or not, the presence of certain stimuli will trigger the woman to refrain from fully engaging in the appropriate state as a means of instinctive protection of her vulnerability in the primal physiological birth state. What this means is that even too brightly lit of an environment can hinder her from birthing naturally in a peaceful way.

If discussion stimulates the neo-cortex, what other things will? Television, where there will be narration and dialogue and perhaps jarring noises and rhythms. Light, as we’ve already discussed. Feeling cold. Feeling observed, so onlookers or even the presence of video cameras.

What else? Music.

Is music required during labor? Many women prefer it. When planning for our natural births, the question comes up all the time. “What do you listen to during labor?” We like to set the mood, feel we are creating a personalized soothing birth experience for ourselves. People exchange ideas on what to listen to ranging from religious music to nature sounds, world music, yoga CDs to tribal drumming, etc. And then there are people like me, who dared to merely place their iPod on shuffle. [If you want to know how that turns out, it’s in the book!]

Certain beats and lyrics, however, may cause– without the woman’s total awareness— a stimulation of the neocortex. The effects can sometimes be felt violently. If beats are too aggressive or up-tempo, the neocortex is activated. If lyrics are sung, a woman in labor may unwittingly be drawn into listening to them or giving them even the slightest attention, keeping her from the true meditative nothingness of the primal consciousness her birthing body seeks.

Odent states:

Our neocortex is originally a tool that serves the old brain structures as a means of supporting our survival instinct. The point is that its activity tends to control more primitive brain structures and to inhibit the birth process (and any sort of sexual experience as well).

The neocortex is supposed to be at rest so that primitive brain structures can more easily release the necessary hormones. That is why women who give birth tend to cut themselves off from our world, to forget what they read or what they have been taught;  they can find themselves in the most unexpected, often primitive quadrupedal posture; I heard women saying afterwards: ‘I was on another planet’. When a labouring woman is ‘on another planet’, this means that the activity of her neocortex is reduced. This reduction of the activity of the neocortex is an essential aspect of birth physiology among humans.

This aspect of human birth physiology implies that one of the basic needs of labouring women is to be protected against any sort of neocortical stimulation. From a practical point of view it is useful to explain what this means and to review the well-known factors that can stimulate the human neocortex.

Language, particularly rational language is one such factor. When we communicate with language we process what we perceive with our neocortex. This implies, for example, that if there is a birth attendant, one of her main qualities is her capacity to keep a low profile and to remain silent, to avoid in particular asking precise questions.

via WombEcology by Michel Odent – In-labour physiological reference.


Odent is clearly saying that we need to drastically cut out neocortex stimuli; yet music, one of the favored relaxation tools of birth, is a such a stimulus.

If you absolutely insist on having or trying music during your labor, the best kinds which will be far less likely to provoke thought and cause inadvertent stimulation of your neocortex would include anything down-tempo, without lyrics, and with relaxed, unobtrusive rhythms. Yoga CDs, nature sounds, and mild tribal drumming will probably be the most likely to do the trick. Avoid anything that may surprise you, trigger memories, or cause you to think. Static and calm from the external are the keys to entering your best physiological state. The external needs to be able to fade into nonexistence, for you. You need to be able to tap in to your more instinctive self, so give yourself the best tools you can to achieve this. Like most things in birth, less is more.

If you think your body will know what it is doing and birth this baby no matter what music you have on, you’re right… but having the wrong music versus having no music could be the difference between pain and pleasure in childbirth.

Video Blog: “Why I Don’t Believe in the UC Elite”

20 06 2011

Women should really know what their options are in childbirth. All too often they will count themselves out for this or for that, because another woman discouraged them about it, or a doctor tried to dissuade them from it. There are often ulterior motives here at worst, or just gross misconceptions at best. I wanted to talk about it a little, particularly as it relates to UC. This also can be said of/translate to women who want merely a natural birth, a home birth, or a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). So, although the topic does center around unassisted birth, it has a much more universal appeal.

That sounds so silly to say. Does it get much more “universal” than unassisted? 🙂 Ask the universe.