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During the 1960's, abdominal decompression during pregnancy was thought, on the basis of poorly controlled studies, to confer exceptional intelligence on the fetus. A carefully controlled study subsequently showed that this was not the case. Mothers who had received decompression treatment tended to give manifestly unrealistic accounts of their children's abilities, and their children differed temperamentally from the control group. The routine use of new techniques before they have been properly validated is not unwise, but makes it difficult subsequently to distinguish between the effects of the technique and those created by the expectations of the parents.
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G. Justus Hofmeyr, MRCOG
The author is Professor and head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Coronation Hospital and University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Address correspondence to: G.J. Hofmeyr, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of the Witwatersrand Medical School, 7 York Rd., Parktown 2193, Johannesburg, South Africa.