In the course of a year I am asked by various organizations, hospitals, growth centers, etc. to lecture on Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology. So I get to meet and talk to a lot of people who are very supportive of PPPANA and its goals. Frequently, the conversations turn to the problem of convincing the medical establishment that our ideas about the mental development of unborn and newborn babies have scientific validity.
The great majority of physicians, nurses and psychologists simply do not believe that babies can feel, think, remember or communicate. How do we get them to change their minds? Obviously, there is no simple answer to this question. The problem is that this need for scientific proof which the health professionals profess to seek really camouflages a complex web of unconscious fears. The obstetricians of Vienna in the 1860's would not, could not comprehend that they were responsible for spreading puerperal fever by not washing their hands and this drove Ignaz Semmelweiss to suicide. Today's health professionals once again resist what in a few years' time will be as much of a common sense notion as washing one's hands between patient examinations. I will address this subject in greater detail at our forthcoming Congress at Amherst, Mass. Suffice to say that one approach that may sway those who are emotionally prepared to listen is the furnishing of hard scientific data. With this in mind this issue of the Journal was compiled.
My paper deals specifically with research perspectives as they relate to the development and function of the central nervous system, prenatal learning and the effect of perinatal trauma on personality. Next, Don Shetler discusses his study on the long term influence on children exposed to musical stimulation pre-natally. His article provides an excellent review of audiological research in animals and humans. Both papers are carefully and thoroughly researched. The references themselves are culled from the most reputable scientific journals in the world.
If, in spite of this documentation, your doctor friend is still skeptical, show him the World Heath Organization (WHO) report of 1985, particularly Point #3 under Implementation which calls for "an attitude of respect for the emotional, psychological and social aspects of birth." If we can get doctors and other health providers to recognize that at least pregnant and birthing women have psychological needs perhaps, in a while, we can extend their horizons to include the psychological needs of unborn and newborn children.
And speaking of children allows me to introduce William Emerson's ground-breaking and far reaching paper on the psychotherapy of infants and children. He bases his work on the recognition that many of these patients' problems originated in the pre- and peri-natal period.
I have also included in this issue a reprint from The American Journal of Psychiatry on foundation funding and psychiatric research in the hope that it may prove helpful to those of you who are contemplating doing research in Pre- and Peri-Natal Psychology.
This is probably the last issue of the Journal that you will receive before the IV International PPPANA Congress. See you there.
Thomas R. Verny, M.D.