The keyword is protection

“Reduced self-control, as an effect of reduced neocortical activity, appears as the main factor that makes human birth possible. Some modern midwives still know that for a woman to give birth easily by herself, without any pharmacological assistance, there is a time when she cuts herself off from our world, forgetting what she has been taught, forgetting her plans, and behaving in a way that might be considered unacceptable for a civilized woman: for example, screaming or swearing. Some women can find themselves in the most unexpected, bizarre, often mammalian, primitive, quadrupedal postures. Interestingly, there are anecdotes of women in hard labor complaining of odors nobody else could perceive. This is an eloquent symptom of reduced neocortical control, since the sense of smell is an example of a human physiological function that i usually inhibited by neocortical activity. When this solution found by Nature is understood, it becomes easy to analyze and summarize the basic needs of a laboring woman: she needs to feel protected against all possible neocortical stimulations. The keyword is protection. The main stimulants of neocortical activity are well-known; language, light, and all attention-enhancing situations – such as feeling observed, or perceiving a possible danger.”

– Michel Odent


Odent M (2020). Do we need midwives? Midwifery Today 132: 10-11.


If you’d like to stay up-to-date with birth-related research and thinking, make sure you’re subscribed to our free newsletter list, which means you’ll get Sara’s monthly Birth Information Update.
And if you’re a midwife or other birth worker who enjoys unpacking research, seeing what’s behind the headlines and sharing wisdom with like-minded others, come and join Sara and colleagues from all over the world in one of our online courses!