Volume 23, Issue 3

Publication Date: 
03/2009
Editor(s): 
Volume #: 
23
Volume Page Numbers: 
139
197
Price: $20.00

On occasions I've found myself wishing I could ask Otto Rank (The Trauma of Birth, 1929/1993) how he grappled with the decision to part ways with his colleague, Sigmund Freud, selecting an early trauma experience and mother-child relationship focus over drive theory. Or to inquire of Phyllis Greenacre what it felt like to be a woman practicing in the psychoanalytic field early-to-mid twentieth century, being criticized for exploring preverbal stages of development, and arguing that the roots of anxiety might predate the existence of the ego. Though I now need to extrapolate the answers to my questions from early authors' writings because they have passed on, many prominent thinkers are still with us who can speak to a number of issues from a lifetime of work in prenatal and perinatal psychology. Thus . . .

I began by asking Thomas Verny, M.D. this question: "Who named our field?" He replied that he had selected it. (Thomas was, of course, an ideal choice for this one, as he founded the Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology Association of North America [PPPANA], as well). I inquired of Ludwig Janus, M.D., German psychoanalyst and author of The Enduring Effects of Prenatal Experience: Echoes from the Womb, what he considered the most important characteristic in the transference relationship when working with prenatal issues. He stated without hesitation, "attention." By this he meant that the psychotherapist would hold his attention on the prenatal feelings the client was expressing without dismissing them.

I will continue in my pursuit of asking the founders and/or longtime theorists and practitioners within the field what their lifelong examinations have produced. And fortunately, in this issue of the journal there are two contributions of this kind, submitted works by Dr. Arthur Janov and Dr. Michel Odent. These two scholars, each distinct in their fields of psychology and medicine, know the critical importance of the prenatal and perinatal periods and reflect on these at this time in their lives.

The first offering in this issue covers several sections from an upcoming book by Arthur Janov, Ph.D. A bit of history is included here for the reader who may not know his body of work. Born in 1924 in Los Angeles, Dr. Janov received his B.A. and M.S. W. in psychiatric social work from the University of California, Los Angeles and his Ph.D. in psychology from Claremont Graduate School in 1960. He originally practiced a more traditional treatment modality but in a particular therapy session he heard what he described as, "an eerie scream welling up from the depths of a young man lying on the floor" (Janov, 1977, p. 9). From that point forward Dr. Janov began developing what became known as Primal Therapy, where clients re-live and express childhood repressed feelings. After 60 years of clinical work his theory had been extended, namely to state that very early preverbal events control our destiny. His offering in this issue is entitled Life Before Birth: How Experience in the Womb Can Affect Our Lives Forever. Prior to this paper, Dr. Janov has authored twelve books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages throughout the world.

The second article is by the prolific author and obstetrician, Michel Odent, M.D. Born in France in 1930; Dr. Odent attended medical school at Paris University and was in charge of the surgical unit and the maternity unit at the Pithiviers State Hospital (1962-1985). He is the Founder and current Director of the Primal Health Research Centre (London). Some of his contributions follow, reflecting his commitment to testing the assumption that human health is shaped during the primal period, which includes fetal life, the perinatal period, and the year following birth.

In the 1970s Dr. Odent introduced the concept of birthing pools and home-like birthing rooms in maternity hospitals and was the author of the first article in the medical literature about the use of these (Gillett, 1979). Also Dr. Odent authored the initial article on the initiation of lactation during the hour following birth for a medical authence (Odent, 1983). In addition to more than 50 scientific papers, his recent books include: The Scientification of Love, The Farmer and the Obstetrician, and The Caesarean. His article for this issue of the journal is entitled, The Masculinisation of the Birth Environment. Finally, his Primal Health Research database is a specialized compilation of studies that explore the long-term consequences of events that occur during the primal period.

We have two book reviews in this issue as well. Antonella Sansone's Working With Parents and Infants: A Mind-Body Integration Approach, and Cassandra Vieten's Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child's First Year.

Editor's Note: While this journal does not include a formal "Letter to the Editor" commenting process, on occasion suggestions come in that deserve to be shared. A reader noted in the research article by Marilyn W Lewis, PhD (The Interactional Model of Maternal-Fetal Attachment: An Empirical Analysis, Fall, 2008) that the contribution of the fetus in her attachment model was an important new development. However, the model also suggested that while the mother and environment interact in a bidirectional manner, the interactions between mother and fetus are unidirectional, that is, the mother may elicit a response from the fetus but not the other way around. It was pointed out that this conclusion is inconsistent with one of the basic assumptions of prenatal and perinatal psychology, that the fetus is a sentient being, fully capable of (non-verbal) communication. Further research would be helpful toward clarifying this defining feature.

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References

References

Gillett, J. (1979). Childbirth in Pithiviers, France. Lancet, 2(8148), 894-6.

Janov, A. (1977). The primal scream. New York: Abacus.

Odent, M. (1983). Birth under water. Lancet, 2(8365-66), 1476-7.

Odent, M. (1977). The early expression of the rooting reflex. Proceedings of the 5th International Congress of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, Rome. London: Academic Press, 1117-1119.

Rank, O. (1929/1993). The trauma of birth. Mineola, N. Y.: Dover Publications, Inc.

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