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This article offers a historical account of the changes in birth that the author reflects on after decades as a practicing obstetrician. In preliterate and pre-agricultural societies, women used to isolate themselves to give birth. It seems that at that phase of the history of humanity the only person who could be around was the mother of the parturient, an ant, or another experienced mother. Then, for thousands of years, childbirth has been more and more socialized and culturally controlled. During this long period the birth environment remained mostly feminine. It is only after the middle of the twentieth century that several factors made the environment more and more masculine. First, more and more specialised doctors were trained and, in many countries, most of them were men. Then, suddenly, the doctrine of the participation of the father spread out in most industrialized countries. At the same time many sophisticated electronic machines were introduced in the birthing place (technology being a male symbol). The main question being posed: Is this masculinisation of the birth environment the main factor why today, at a planetary level, the number of women who deliver babies and placentas thanks only to the release of natural hormones (i.e. a ?cocktail of love hormones?) is approaching zero? Dr. Odent suggests that the answer to this dilemma is to focus on a better understanding of the physiological processes during the perinatal period.


Donnison, J. (1977). Midwives and medical men. London: Heinemann.

Odent, M. (2009). The functions of the orgasms: the highways to transcendence. London: Pinter & Martin.

Odent, M. (2004). Knitting midwives for drugless childbirth? Midwifery Today, 71, 21-22.

Von Siebold, E. C. J. (1839). Versuch einer Geschichte der Gerburtshulfe, Berlin.

JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.

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