Last month Oahu hosted the mid-Pacific conference on birth and primal health research with Michel Odent spear heading what he called the Honolulu great wake-up call. Michel Odent is the author of 12 books including Birth Reborn. He also featured in the documentary, ‘The Business of being born’ and is recognized as authoring the first medical article introducing birthing pools to maternity units.
Michel Odent also coined the term, “womb ecology”. E·col·o·gy A branch of science concerned with the interrelationship of organisms and their environments (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Therefore, womb ecology relates to the relationship between the fetus and the environment of the womb, especially the mother’s state of mind and health during pregnancy. It is widely understood that what a mother puts into her body will affect her developing baby, but Odent has compiled a primal health research data bank (that has gathered hundreds of studies) documenting how stresses on the mother can also have an affect on the developing fetus well into their adult life.
“In many traditional societies they had an intuitive knowledge of the effects of maternal emotional states on fetal development. It was well understood that the duty of the community is to protect the emotional states of pregnant women. For example, I heard that in an ethnic group of Western Amazonia they transmit the belief that people should avoid to argue with a pregnant woman, and, if by chance they start arguing, they should always make sure that the mother-to-be would have the last word” Michel Odent.
These intuitive practices can now be supported by science. For example, cortisol levels increase with stress (cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland and is released in response to stress or when the body is in fight or flight mode). It is now well documented that cortisol is an inhibitor of fetal growth (even if the placenta can to a certain extent moderate this effect).
Another example of womb ecology is the discovery that Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be associated with conditions pre-birth. “Children with this condition cannot socialize like others. The best-documented risk factors are smoking in pregnancy, alcohol and drugs in pregnancy, maternal iodine deficiency and also the degree of anxiety of the mother, particularly between 12 and 22 weeks gestation.” Michel Odent.
Importantly, studies are beginning to examine what factors might help buffer the effects of stress during pregnancy. Social support is huge, having someone you can talk to can make a big difference. Other protective factors can include learning stress coping mechanisms like meditating or yoga, consistent prenatal care, regular light exercise, adequate rest and sleep, healthy eating habits, and avoiding alcohol and other drugs that can alter your state of mind.
Mild depression can be common in pregnancy with the increases of estrogen and progesterone. Mood swings are part of the course and should not be worried about. In fact according to Michel Odent’s research a pregnant mother should try not to worry about anything! Look after yourself and state of mind. Try and keep your thoughts positive and discover a stress reliever that works well for you. This will benefit you, and according to womb ecology your child for decades to come.
Image Credit: Caprice Nicole Photography