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By Mali Schwartz
Michel Odent, pioneer of Primal Health
In thinking about how birth has been viewed throughout the ages, it wasn’t that long ago that childbirth was considered a mystery – one that engendered both fear and joy. The process of how an embryo developed in the uterus or how the actual birth could impact the development of the baby was not known but guessed at. Slowly the feeling of awe that the birth process was held in was peeled away layer by layer as modern technology and scientific research paved the way toward a clearer understanding of this process. Today the mystery of birth has been uncovered. In our country it is common to have the doctor schedule an ultrasound where prospective parents can find out the gender of their baby, although some elect not to find out and to be surprised at the actual birth. While finding out the sex of your child is one of the outcomes of modern technology, wouldn’t you like to have access to even more essential information regarding the future health of your baby? The subject of primal health has been the focus of birth activist Michel Odent who sits on the advisory board of BirthWorks International. The definition of primal health is that our health is to a great extent shaped at the very beginning of our life. Odent’s primal health research can be accessed by going to the Primal Health Databank. A series of event helped Odent pursue his interest in primal health when in the early 1980’s he was asked to speak in Oxford by McCarrison Society for Nutrition and Health. Odent shared the message that a new kind of research was needed to test the hypothesis that our health is to a large extent shaped at the very beginning of our life. When Odent met Niko Tinbergen, a pioneer and Nobel Prize Winner in the field of ethology who had explored the risks of autism in relation to how a child was born, it encouraged Odent to write a book entitled “Primal Health” the first edition of which was published in 1986. The advent of advances in computer sciences helped to facilitate a new generation of research. Odent’s objective was to compile all studies in the medical and scientific literature that belong to the framework of primal health research. Odent explains that while there have been other studies conducted in this area, “one of the main differences is that our key word is “health” instead of “disease”. My first preoccupation has been to understand the genesis of a good health.” In 1998 Odent created, a website that has as its objective “to convince anyone that prenatal ecology is the most vital aspect of human ecology, and that the period inside the womb is the life period with the highest adaptability and vulnerability to environmental factors.” Scientists are currently questioning the critical time periods for genes-environment interaction. A new concept called ‘gene expression’ has helped to clarify why some of our genes express themselves, while others become silenced. This new avenue for scientific research has created a new function for the Primal Health Research Database. The database has become a unique tool to provide clues regarding how the critical time period of conception and fetal development in the womb relates to the state of health, pathological conditions, and personality traits of an individual into adulthood. Primal health research can even impact the naming and classification of diseases which before was mostly based on descriptions of symptoms, on altered functions or on altered organs. Primal health is an avenue of research whose time has come. I invite you to read up on this important topic to find out about the connection between womb ecology, various birth methods, hormones such as oxytocin and what influence these variables can have on a baby’s health throughout its life span.