APPPAH created the David B. Cheek Memorial Lecture On Psychosomatic Obstetrics in 1997 to honor an esteemed colleague and to assure that his work will be long remembered. David Cheek, who died in June 1996 at the age of 84, was a pioneering obstetrician and researcher who illuminated the realities of infant consciousness in both prenatal and neonatal life, and invented new approaches to infertility, premature birth, and birth trauma. David was a beloved and loyal member of APPPAH, served on the Board of Directors for five years, and was a popular speaker at congresses.

Messages from the Womb

It is a great honor for me to give the David Cheek Memorial Lecture. The legacy of Dr. Cheek's work has profound implications for the work we do in prenatal and perinatal psychology and health. He was a pioneer in understanding the power of the mind to explore and affect the physiology and psychology of pregnancy, of fetal life, and the importance of prenatal bonding as well as his trust in fetal consciousness. In my own work as a psychotherapist I had studied hypnotherapy along with other therapeutic modalities for many years before meeting David. I was deeply affected and encouraged by his work to trust what I was seeing. In exploring the origins of physical illness, emotional distress, or behavioral dysfunction using hypnotic techniques, my clients would often regress to their gestational period, their birth, or even to the birth of their own parents to discover core experiences or beliefs causing these symptoms. With new research today there is evidence to show how parental emotions, intentions, and stress, as well as transgenerational trauma and stress, affect the fetus and the parents. Part of the potential of my approach is the use of multi-layered in-depth history-taking. Parents come into pregnancy with their own life story and often unresolved stressors, many held at an unconscious level. These experiences, coupled with any trauma during pregnancy, labor, or birth, can interrupt the natural hormones of birth, bonding and attachment and can have a negative effect on the baby's emotional and physical health later in life. The goal of therapy is not only to retrieve these traumas but to heal them. Healing can often occur at the state-dependent subliminal level in which they occurred. Growing evidence of the brain's plasticity gives us hope that healing can occur and that the negative effects can be mediated. My talk will discuss methods and case examples of sensitive history-taking both at a present-day awareness and at a deeper mind level, and other methods such as communicating with the symptom in order to retrieve and heal unrecognized layers of early messages from the womb.