An Oxytocin Moment
Digg that "Cesarian Warning"

Another Cesarian Warning

Michael Odent, head of the Primal Birth Research Institute in England, created a wave of anxiety and dissent with recent remarks warning that C-sections could interfere with  bonding between mother and child.

According to  an article by Emily Cook in The Daily Mail,

Obstetrician Michel Odent said that undergoing the planned procedure prevents the release of hormones that cause a woman to 'fall in love' with her child.

"The hormone is produced during sex and breastfeeding, as well as birth, but in the moments after birth, a woman's oxytocin level is the highest it will ever be in her life, and this peak is vital.

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

In comments to the article, mothers who gave birth via C-section protest that they love their children and couldn't feel more bonded to them.

This is a hard one. Of course, these mothers love their children and are deeply attached to them.  It's impossible to know whether the quality of their bond -- or their experience of it -- is different from that of a mother who gave birth at home, in private, without drugs (as recommended by Odent and others).

There's another issue: These mothers may have themselves been delivered in a way that allowed their infant brains to experience the rush of oxytocin and endorphins that creates the primal bond. Therefore, their brains knew how to release oxytocin in response to the gaze of the newborn baby. But the brains of their babies may have been deprived of that initial learning.

Of course, cesarian birthing methods have saved the lives of inumerable mothers and children, and it's extremely upsetting for a woman to hear that a necessary medical process might have harmed her child. We make those trade-offs all the time; at least her child has life.

But Odent was speaking against the rise in the use of C-sections, which are sometimes used to schedule the birth at a time that's convenient to the doctor and the mother. According to the article, one in five births is now a surgical procedure, while the World Health Organisation says the rate should be around 15 percent.

In short, doctors and mothers should do what's necessary to make sure they and their babies survive. But they should be aware that they -- and their babies -- may miss something vital that occurs with natural birth.

Odent is the author of many books, including "Primal Health: Understanding the Critical Period Between Birth and the First Birthday."