A Woman MD/OB Who Believes in Odent, Oxytocin, & Physiology?

25 10 2011

My previous post drew controversy that I would dare contradict Dr. Amy in insisting that Dr. Odent was right about birth physiology, namely that mammalian birth involved the BONDING hormone Oxytocin, which is in fact different from the synthetic variety, best known as Pitocin.  The issue was basically that Odent was supposedly an out-of-touch misogynist for tricking women into believing they were birthing goddesses when they really aren’t, guilting women into undergoing the pain of childbirth. And oh, btw, Oxytocin doesn’t actually bond people and Pitocin does exactly the same things for the body. Right.

Enter “troll” (not my label) Marlo. She is vocal in the anti-NCB community and feels that pain-free childbirth is a lie, Michel Odent is an unapologetic sexist and not a man of science nor a respected doctor. We did a back and forth in comments in my previous post, and she had this to say:

“Find me some women OBGYNs who are down with it & have them guest post.”

Ask and ye shall receive… I may not have a guest post from Dr. Buckley (yet?!), but I do have her response to the topic, as it is easily available. Enjoy!

Sarah J Buckley is a trained GP/family physician with qualifications in GP-obstetrics and family planning. Dr Buckley has presented at numerous conferences in Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, lecturing to midwives, nurses, physicians, obstetricians, doulas, and childbirth educators…

And of course, our man Odent has a fabulous endorsement of the respected Doctor:

“Sarah Buckley is precious, because she is bilingual. She can speak the language of a mother who gave birth to her four children at home. She can also speak like a medical doctor. By intermingling the language of the heart and the scientific language she is driving the history of childbirth towards a radical and inspiring new direction.”

Michel Odent MD, author and natural birth pioneer

Already we have TWO respected doctors who believe natural birth, oxytocin, and mammalian physiology are not just myths. Odent was discredited for his age, for his beliefs, and even for having a penis (“men will never understand“, Marlo holds). He was accused of being a general surgeon, and not an OB, even though Odent did his initial training in general surgery and was in charge of the surgical unit and the maternity unit at the Pithiviers state hospital (1962–1985). Now, Dr. Buckley is a woman, has had home births, and is qualified in the field of obstetrics. Let’s hear more of what Dr. Buckley has to say:

Perhaps the best-known birth hormone is oxytocin, the hormone of love, which is secreted during sexual activity, male and female orgasm, birth, and breastfeeding. Oxytocin engenders feelings of love and altruism; as Michel Odent says, “Whatever the facet of Love we consider, oxytocin is involved.”(1)For the baby also, birth is an exciting and stressful event, reflected in high CA levels (27). These assist the baby during birth by protecting against the effects of hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and subsequent acidosis.

Undisturbed birth is exceedingly rare in our culture, even in birth centers and home births.

Two factors that disturb birth in all mammals are firstly being in an unfamiliar place and secondly the presence of an observer. Feelings of safety and privacy thus seem to be fundamental. Yet the entire system of Western obstetrics is devoted to observing pregnant and birthing women, by both people and machines, and when birth isn’t going smoothly, obstetricians respond with yet more intense observation. It is indeed amazing that any woman can give birth under such conditions.

Synthetic oxytocin [AKA PITOCIN] administered in labor does not act like the body’s own oxytocin. First, syntocinon-induced contractions are different from natural contractions, and these differences can cause a reduced blood flow to the baby. For example, waves can occur almost on top of each other when too high a dose of synthetic oxytocin is given, and it also causes the resting tone of the uterus to increase (33).

Second, oxytocin, synthetic or not, cannot cross from the body to the brain through the blood-brain barrier. This means that syntocinon, introduced into the body by injection or drip, does not act as the hormone of love. However, it does provide the hormonal system with negative feedback—that is, oxytocin receptors in the laboring woman’s body detect high levels of oxytocin and signal the brain to reduce production. We know that women with syntocinon infusions are at higher risk of bleeding after the birth, because their own oxytocin production has been shut down. But we do not know the psychological effects of giving birth without the peak levels of oxytocin that nature prescribes for all mammalian species.

For more from the very esteemed Dr. Buckley, read her article on Ecstatic Birth. Or is she just a misogynist idiot, too?

Misconstruing a Genius

20 10 2011

I was alerted that one of THE best minds in childbirth, Dr. Michel Odent, was being challenged by a certain infamous anti-homebirth doctor. Self-assured was I that she could not possibly intelligently refute Odent, I was shocked to see how right I was. When one cannot debunk someone properly, one must resort to smear! Also, use the word “smear”, because if you say it first, it cannot be used on you. Here’s a sampling of what was said:

Dr. Michel Odent’s claim that childbirth pain is necessary for mother-infant bonding.

Only Odent never says that. What he says is this:

The French expert said: “Oxytocin is the hormone of love, and to give birth without releasing this complex cocktail of love chemicals disturbs the first contact between the mother and the baby…

“It is this hormone flood that enables a woman to fall in love with her newborn and forget the pain of birth.”

And, nowhere does he say pain is necessary for bonding. In fact, he says with the help of Oxytocin, pain is greatly diminished for the mother. Not only does his work and literature include info on Birth and Breastfeeding in relation to Oxytocin, but he also speaks very much on the topic of orgasms. No, indeed, Odent is an Oxytocin champion– he believes in all it does for us. He warns us not to give it up so lightly when biologically, it is there to help us. He is a protector of the process, a facilitator of our easy and best births, and now he is being ridiculed by the type of people who drone on about the nastiness of birthing pools. Yes, Odent is credited with introducing these to the modern laboring woman.

Naturally, tons of idiotic commentators arrived to call him everything from a sexist to a liar. Honey, you don’t know Odent! I think he is far less sexist than the medical professionals telling empowered women they are nothing special for having a natural birth. Michel is not a misogynist– he is a feminist!  So anyway, I had to give my two cents:

You are completely misconstruing what DR. Odent is saying.  

First of all, nothing you have quoted in your attempt to paint him as this lying misogynist states that he feels that PAIN is necessary for bonding. In fact, Odent believes that the “pain” will be eased by the natural release of the Oxytocin, which is part of the function of the hormone.  

Can Pitocin do that? No. Pitocin attempts to mimic Oxytocin, but those with experience can tell you that Pit makes contractions worse, harder, less bearable. Being under the influence of Oxytocin, however, leaves many women feeling almost pain-free, some orgasmic. It IS the love hormone, the relaxation and orgasm hormone. Pitocin and Oxytocin are NOT the same thing, anymore than powdered milk or formula is the same thing as breastmilk.  

Furthermore, as someone who has experienced labor THREE different ways, I can tell you from experience that Odent DID do his wife a favor. I love and trust my husband immensely but felt the need to ask him to leave the room during my last labor. It’s not because he has a penis, but because I desired solitude. AND, I had to wake him, because the poor man was asleep. The woman needs what she needs. The intellect doesn’t have to agree with it, the body DOES. It doesn’t mean anything bad about the husband, or the marital relationship, just as you giving birth via C-section does not mean you don’t love your baby.  

That’s right– neither Odent nor I are saying that artificially-had births equate to parents NOT loving their children. There are many factors to bonding. Oxytocin is ONE, and it’s a very primal and primary one. If you think we are saying adoptive parents do not love or bond, or C section moms do not love or bond, you are hearing what you want to hear.  

What we ARE saying is that Oxytocin has an amazing, multi-purpose effect– on labor, the birth, mother, baby, and breastfeeding– and women who choose not to reap its benefits are missing out on something special. Those who have experienced it have described it as THE greatest natural high a woman will experience in her lifetime.  

You can call Dr. Odent’s theories ridiculous and false, if you feel so defensive about them in your personal lives. Maybe his “theories” (based on mammalian science, accepted and understood as TRUE) offend you because they didn’t play a part in your stories and this threatens you somehow as a woman. But, for me? I didn’t understand what had happened to me and my other labors until I started reading geniuses like Odent.Then it all made sense to me. I finally “got it”. Before, maybe I would have blown it off like you and said it was not true. But yeah, he’s just totally in a fantasy world?  

Whatever. He’s one of the only true scientists in the world of childbirth. So many others, indoctrinated by their education, worship at the altar of technology and drugs as though they can do no wrong. At least Odent honors the woman and her needs above any touting of “advancement” our backwards society makes. He truly wants what is best for us, and he doesn’t have an agenda. There are no lobbyists, no drug companies, no ego-driven wars he is in bed with. It is just a man and the science he has observed. He is a great mind… so naturally, he is met with aggressive opposition.  

The only smearing I see is people here of Odent. I can’t figure out if you simply do not understand him, or if you are intentionally trying to miscategorize him to the masses.

… which, of course, immediately fell on deaf ears, as he was called not only totally wrong but a “classy” guy for leaving his wife alone during her labor. Before you judge this guy, random RNs, birthy mom types, and other MDs, please read more about this man and his career, works, and genius. He IS a classy guy. For starters, he doesn’t own any hate sites to tell non-Oxytocin-enjoying moms where to go and attack those who have experienced this amazing part of the circle of life. He isn’t part of the REAL smear campaign, to undermine the real wants and real experiences of real women, and reduce common sense, observations, and real life events to mere mythology.

Nope. He’s one of the good guys.

PS– By popular demand, here are some links worth checking out on the idiosyncrasies and differences between Oxytocin and Pitocin (besides just “brand name”).

Pit of Despair — The difference has to do with the blood-brain barrier. Oxytocin is produced by the brain and has a direct effect on brain function. But when Pitocin is introduced into the bloodstream, it does not affect the brain.

Oxytocin: The Great Facilitator of Life — In light of the prominent role in parturition and essential role in lactation, we are drawn to the view that Oxt serves the continued propagation of a species.

Thanks, Mom!— Time Magazine article:  It also helps facilitate bonding between mothers and newborns.

A relationship between oxytocin and anxiety of romatic attachment –That oxytocin and anxiety may be linked in some way in the modulation of social bonding is supported also by scattered data showing that a moderate level of stress seems to promote pair bonding in different species, including human beings [40].

“Love Hormone” Promotes Bonding — Obviously we think we know a lot about it, but should hesitate to flat out reject what little we already know (that oxytocin correlates with bonding). We are only just starting to learn how it affects us, and to blanketed deny a connection seems arrogant.

“The hormone, also known by its trade name, Pitocin, has been used for years to induce labor and promote lactation in women.  But its effects on the brain are just beginning to be understood.”

Oxytocin is a brain chemical associated with pair bonding, including mother-infant and male-female bonds, increased paternal involvement with children, and monogamy in certain rodents, according to Kai MacDonald, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCSD.”