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Dr. Michel Odent's Unique Innovations

After filming the initial sequences of Marilyn Rodgers' water birth, word of the documentary was brought to Dr. Michael Odent in France, the first doctor in the world to provide water birth in a hospital setting. Dr. Odent invited Dr. Creevy and me to visit his hospital in Pithiviers, an hour's drive south of Paris, so that his water birth work could be included in the film. What we found there was totally unique.

Dr. Odent believes in allowing women to give birth in whatever way they choose. He created a very special atmosphere in a modern hospital maternity ward that encouraged a wide range of physical possibilities while assisting each woman to find the labor and birth positions most comfortable for her.

As I observed Dr. Odent during a ten day period, one thing was very clear: this doctor was filled with the magic of birth. After many years of assisting women to deliver, the miracle was still intact for him; the excitement had not faded.
One evening a woman came to the hospital to have her baby. He offered her the warm bath, which she gratefully accepted. She had agreed to be filmed, so I was with them in the tub room. After awhile Michel suggested that we leave, so the woman could be alone with her husband, since he knew it would still be a couple of hours before she would deliver the baby.

From the next room we could hear her cry out as she had a contraction. Dr. Odent immediately put up his hand to signal silence, cocked his ear and listened carefully. When she finished moaning he said "good, very good, everything is fine." I was fascinated to learn that he was able to read the progress of her labor solely by listening to her sounds.

Dr. Odent believes that to achieve the best result, women should be kept as happy as possible during pregnancy and as comfortable as possible during labor and birth. To achieve comfort in labor, in 1977 he began offering the women who came to his hospital the use of a warm bath.

It was not originally his intention to deliver babies in water but merely to use the water for the mothers' relaxation, so that they wouldn't need drugs and a natural delivery would be possible. However, the inevitable soon happened.

A woman who felt much better in the bath refused to get out of the water at the time of delivery, and so Odent assisted her in giving birth while she remained in the water. In this way he discovered firsthand that water birth was another method that could be used to help the mother achieve an easier delivery. Dr. Odent believes water birth is particularly valuable for women experiencing long or very difficult labors, and reports that often the baby will come soon after a woman enters the bath.

In the Water Baby video, Dr. Odent is seen assisting two waterbirths in a hospital setting, discussing the benefits of water labor and waterbirth with Dr. Don Creevy, talking with American waterbirth parents about their delivery and participating in group singing sessions that he holds especially for his OB patients and their families.

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