Q I was fascinated by your article ‘Giving birth to junkies’ (vol 4 no 5). In particular, the statement: ‘If ewes are given epidurals in early labour, they fail to show interest in their lambs’. This recalled experiments carried out early this century.
I enclose an extract from ‘The Soul of the White Ant’, a translation of a series of articles published in Afrikaans by Eugene Marais 70 or more years ago.
‘For the experiment I used a herd of 60 half-wild buck.
‘ 1. Six cases of birth during full anaesthesia of the mother induced by chloroform and ether. In all six cases the mother refused to accept the lamb of her own volition.
‘2. Four cases of birth during paralysis – consciousness and feeling were partly paralyzed but not destroyed by the American arrow poison curare. In all four cases the mother appeared for over an hour in great doubt as to the acceptance of her lamb. After this period, three mothers accepted their lambs; one refused it.
‘To prove that refusal on the part of these mothers was not due to the general disturbances caused by the anaesthetics used, I did the following experiments:
‘3. In six cases of birth the mother was put under chloroform anaesthesia immediately after delivery was complete but before she had seen her lamb . . . In all six cases the mother accepted her lamb without any doubt immediately after she became conscious . . .
‘From these and other experiments, I became convinced that, without pain, there can be no mother love in nature, and this pain must actually be experienced psychologically. It is not sufficient for the body to experience it physiologically.’- B F, Neasden.
A Thank you for your interesting reference, which provides further evidence that medicine needs to be far less cavalier in its view that interference of any sort into what birth pioneer Dr Michel Odent has coined the ‘primal period’ of life can be done with impunity.