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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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Hofmeyr, G.J. (1990). Commentary: Should abdominal decompression be consigned to the history books? Br J Obstet Gynaecol, in press.

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Hofmeyr, G.J., Metrikin, D.C. & Williamson, I. (1990). Abdominal decompression" new data from a previous study. Br J Obstet Gynaecol, in press.

Zeskind, P.S. & Ramey, C.T. (1978). Fetal malnutrition: an experimental study of its consequences in two caregiving environments. Child Development. 49, 1155-1162.

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.

JOURNAL OF PRENATAL AND PERINATAL PSYCHOLOGY AND HEALTH publishes research and clinical articles from the cutting edge of the science of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. The journal, published quarterly since 1986, is dedicated to the in-depth exploration human reproduction and pregnancy and the mental and emotional development of the unborn and newborn child.

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