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Michel Odent: Pioneering Obstetrician Redefining Childbirth

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In the world of childbirth, naturally, few names carry as much weight and influence as Michel Odent in Devon.

Who is Michel Odent?

A French obstetrician and natural childbirth advocate, Odent has significantly shaped the landscape of childbirth practices, challenging traditional norms and emphasizing the importance of a woman-centric approach.

Early Life and Education:

Michel Odent was born in January in a French village in 1930. His journey into the medical field began at the University of Paris, where he pursued his studies in medicine.

After completing his general medical studies, Michel Odent developed a particular interest in childbirth and obstetrics, laying the foundation for his ground breaking contributions to the field.

Innovations in Birthing Practices:

Michel Odent is renowned for his revolutionary approach to childbirth, emphasizing the importance of a natural and undisturbed environment for the labouring woman. In the 1960s and 1970s, he introduced numerous innovations that challenged the prevailing medical interventions in natural childbirth.

One of his notable contributions is the concept of the ‘Birthing Pool.’ Odent advocated for water births to provide a gentle and soothing environment for the mother and the new-born. This approach has gained widespread acceptance and is now considered a viable and comfortable option for many women during labour.

The Primal Health Research Centre:

In 1972, Michel Odent founded the Primal Health Research Centre, dedicated to exploring the long-term consequences of early experiences. The centre focuses on the primal period, including pregnancy, birth, and the first year of life. Odent’s commitment to understanding the impact of these formative experiences on individuals’ physical and emotional well-being has led to ground-breaking research and insights.

Oxytocin: The Love Hormone:

Odent’s work extends beyond the physical aspects of childbirth to the intricate biochemical processes involved. He has extensively studied the role of oxytocin, often called the ‘love hormone’ or ‘bonding hormone,’ in the birthing process. Odent’s research highlights the importance of a positive and supportive environment in promoting the release of oxytocin, facilitating smooth labour, and fostering the mother-infant bond.

The Role of Midwives:

Central to Odent’s philosophy is the crucial role of midwives in ensuring a safe and empowering childbirth experience. He advocates for the de-medicalization of childbirth and a return to more traditional, midwife-led care. Odent’s vision emphasizes the physiological processes of birth, recognizing the innate wisdom of a woman’s body and the importance of a supportive birthing team.

Critique of Modern Birthing Practices:

Odent is a vocal critic of certain modern birthing practices, particularly the overuse of medical interventions such as induced labour, epidurals, and caesarean sections. He argues that these interventions, while sometimes necessary, have become routine and may contribute to rising complications and dissatisfaction with the birthing experience.

Legacy and Continuing Influence:

Michel Odent’s impact extends far beyond the delivery room. His writings, including books like “Birth Reborn” and “The Farmer and the Obstetrician,” have become influential resources for medical professionals and expectant parents seeking a deeper understanding of childbirth. The principles he introduced have inspired a global movement towards more natural and woman-centred birthing practices.

10 points to remember about natural childbirth by Michel Odent

  1. Birthing Pools
  2. The Primal Health Research Centre
  3. Oxytocin
  4. Midwife-led Care
  5. De-medicalization of Childbirth
  6. Critique of Modern Birthing Practices
  7. Focus on Physiological Processes
  8. Woman-Cantered Approach
  9. Importance of Supportive Environment
  10. Advocacy for Minimal Intervention


Michel Odent’s legacy is that of a trailblazer who challenged the status of childbirth practices and paved the way for a more holistic and compassionate approach.

His advocacy for natural childbirth, emphasis on the primal period’s significance, and dedication to understanding the biochemical aspects of birth have left an indelible mark on obstetrics.

As discussions around birthing practices evolve, Odent’s contributions remain a guiding light, encouraging re-evaluating how we approach one of life’s most profound experiences.

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