Pre- and Perinatal Psychology

Reviewed Publisher: 
Human Sciences Press, Inc., 296 pgs., $36.95, 1987
Reviewed Title: 
Pre- and Perinatal Psychology
Reviewed Author: 

A collection of 18 fascinating articles, this book is an ideal introduction to a subject which should interest all childbirth professionals. These articles were originally presented as papers at a landmark conference sponsored by the Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Association of North America (PP/PANA) in Toronto, Ontario in 1983.

Among subjects covered are: evidence of consciousness at birth; bonding; underwater birth; the phenomenon of memory; infantile amnesia; the embryological development of the auditory system and its influence on the unborn's mind; new psychotherapeutic modalities based on prenatal and birth experiences; symbolic meanings of the womb and birth in our lives; and theoretical issues such as the idea that reported UFO abductions are actually recapitulations of one's pre perinatal history.

The ideas presented in this book open new vistas on our understanding of the baby before, during and after birth-ideas which have farreaching implications for all childbearing-related professions.

The authors include some of the most notable figures in the field, such as Sylvia Klien Olkin, who discusses how prenatal yoga and inner bonding help expectant parents achieve fruitful communications with the unborn child; and W. Ernest Freud, who contributes a wonderfully lucid piece on prenatal attachment and bonding.

The chapters embody and clarify some important findings regarding the life of the unborn child, for example, the effects of maternal stress. As Janice and Victor Catano point out in their article:

There is no disputing the fact that stress is an aversive event. When the mother experiences stress, a sequence of complex neuroendocrinal changes is initiated within the mother's body. These changes are ultimately transmitted to the fetus through alterations of its biochemical environment.

The book also updates the reader on fascinating research about the newborn, such as an article by David Chamberlain which presents empirical evidence for consciousness at birth. This and other articles reveal examples that show many children not only remember their birth with accuracy, but even remember events before the birth.

To explain accurate birth memories, Arnold Buchheimer proposes the theory that memory storage exists throughout the body. Memory storage, he posits, is "part of the cellular chemistry of the body, connected with protein synthesis."

The book includes a few ideas that may seem unconventional and strikingly different to some, for example, Anne Marie Saurel's article about a therapeutic technique involving an electronic ear for sonic stimulation of the birth process, and description of a cabine de maternage, or small oval-shaped room designed to reconstitute the environment of the womb.

Although not all the articles will appeal to everyone, there is something to interest every childbirth professional and every expectant parent in Pre- and Perinatal Psychology. I suggest that those unfamiliar with these ideas who read this book adopt what Thomas Verny refers to as a "positive listening attitude." All those who do so will find this a thought-provoking and illuminating volume.

Carl Jones is a certified childbirth educator and the author of several popular books including Mind Over Labor, After the Baby is Born, Sharing Birth, and Birth Without Surgery.

Review reprinted here by kind permission of IMPRINTS. Review originally appeared in IMPRINTS, No. 24, Winter 1988. IMPRINTS is published three times a year by the staff of the Birth & Life Bookstore, P.O. Box 70625, Seattle, WA 98107-0625.

Publication Date: 
12/1988