Turning Points: Tuesday evenings with Michel Odent at effraspace

Throughout his whole career, Michel Odent, originally a surgeon, has been a pioneer.

In the mid-1970s he challenged the effects of thousands of years of perinatal beliefs and rituals by claiming that, in our species, lactation is supposed to start during the hour following birth. In 1975, when reporting the effects of intracutaneous injections of sterile water in the lumbar region to replace pharmacological assistance during labour (and to treat renal colic), he introduced the first practical applications of the 'gate control theory of pain. At the same time, he introduced the concept of birthing pool in maternity hospitals. The story started with an inflatable garden paddling pool and the first observations were published in the Lancet. It was also in the 1970s that he introduced the concept of singing sessions for pregnant women, inspired by questions about the need to sing during pregnancy and the development of the sense of hearing during fetal life. Although he was the only doctor (with six midwives) in charge of 1,000 births a year, he found the time to publish, in 1979, 'Genèse de l’homme écologique', raising questions about the development of the 'respect for Mother Earth'.

In the 1980s, Michel Odent was contacted by Elaine Morgan and became involved in the development of 'the aquatic ape hypothesis'. This new way of understanding human nature inspired his studies of fish consumption during pregnancy. In his book Primal Health, published in 1986, he anticipated a new generation of epidemiological studies exploring correlations between what happens during the 'primal period' and what happens later on in terms of health and personality traits. The Primal Health Research Database now includes more than 1,000 entries. In 1986, in the book Primal Health, twenty years before the advent of the 'microbiome revolution', he raised avant-garde questions about the possible consequences of birth in bacteriologically unfamiliar environments. In a book originally published in 1990 (Birth and Breastfeeding) he introduced the concept of 'the hormone of love' to summarise recent knowledge of the behavioural effects of oxytocin.

Since 1999, he has seized the opportunity offered by the 'information sessions for doulas' that he runs with Liliana Lammers to popularize important concepts, such as the concept of neocortical inhibition, a key to understanding human nature in general and human birth in particular.

Michel Odent, born in 1930, cannot be a 'doer' anymore. But he can still help younger generations to phrase appropriate questions about the evolution of our species and the transformations of planet Earth. This is the reason for this unique series of events at effraspace.

This series of talks has now finished. They will be online soon.