Birth Without Violence

I have just heard that Frédérick Leboyer died!

I met him once, maybe 10 years ago or more, at a Doula UK weekend retreat.  He was very old, and i have to admit that at that time, i thought he was a little bit off the wall!

Even if you have never heard of him, i can assure you that he will have had an impact on your birth experience.

Frédérick Leboyer was a French Obstetrician who practiced medicine for close to 40 years.  By his own estimate, he has been involved in over 10,000 births, most of them in France and most of them by conventional methods in traditional hospital delivery rooms.

In the early 70’s, he left his work as a doctor and became a writer and an advocate for babies in the birth room.

His first book was published in 1974, and he called it “Birth Without Violence”.

Can you imagine how shocking the title of this book must have seemed at that time!

It didn’t make him popular i can assure you, however for so many women and their families, this book changed the way they thought about birth.

He spoke of his concern that babies are overlooked in labour.

Leboyer wrote about what he had seen in the delivery room and perhaps his most important contribution to the field of obstetrics – for which he will go down in history – is his assertion that a baby has “rights” during birth, and that these rights must be taken into account as much as those of the mother.

In 2011, his book was re-published by Pinter and Martin.  At that time, in an article in the guardian, he said of the book:- “On one of its first few pages is a photograph showing a newborn, his mother, his father, and the doctor who had just attended his delivery. Everyone was smiling: but at the centre of the picture was a face that, far from being joyful, seemed contorted in pain and agony. “Everyone is radiant with happiness,” the author explained. “Everyone except the child”.

Leboyer recommended that during birth we should ease the transition from womb to world for the baby.  To ensure this, the birth room should:-

•    Have low lighting

•    Sounds should be low and quiet

•    The baby should be laid on it’s mothers stomach and not be taken away for routine tests.

This is something that has been written and spoke about in great detail since, by many, including Anna Verwaal.

I wrote about her work in my post here:- From Womb to world – A conscious look at our early experiences. 

“Birth is all about the child, although everywhere you look, it seems to be about procedures and doctors and women.”

Its been 43 years since the book “Birth Without Violence” was published, and we are so grateful that it was.  There is obviously still some way to go, and whilst some of these recommendations are standard practice in homes and hospitals today, many are not.  In the guardian article Leboyer maintains  “Birth, is all about the child, although everywhere you look, it seems to be about procedures and doctors and women.”

He likens labour to a storm, through which a woman must sail her boat. “She has to remain the captain of her ship – it’s that straightforward,” he says. And he’s hopelessly romantic about it all: childbirth, he maintains, is “a woman’s secret garden … it’s the moment when a maiden dies and a mature woman is born”.

Leboyer continued to speak up and dedicate his life to coming up with innovations to make childbirth a more pleasant and memorable experience for all those involved – most importantly the baby, and his passion was realised by all that met him.

He will be missed by many.

Frédérick Leboyer died on May 25th in France aged 98.




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