From Fetus to Child: An Observational and Psychoanalytic Study

From Fetus to Child: An Observational and Psychoanalytic Study

From Fetus to Child: An Observational and Psychoanalytic Study

From Fetus to Child: An Observational and Psychoanalytic Study

Synopsis

The use of ultrasonic scans in pregnancy makes it possible to observe the fetus undisturbed in the womb. Dr Alessandra Piontelli has done what no one has done before: she observed eleven fetuses (three singletons and four sets of twins) in the womb using ultrasound scans, and then observed their development at home from birth up to the age of four years. She includes a description of the psychoanalytic psychotherapy of one of the research children, and the psychoanalysis of five other very young children whose behaviour in analysis suggested that they were deeply preoccupied with their experience in the womb.

Dr Piontelli has discovered what many parents have always thought - that each fetus, like each newborn baby, is a highly individual creature. By drawing on her experience as a child psychotherapist and psychoanalyst as well as on her observational research, she is able to investigate issues relating to individuality, psychological birth and the influence of maternal emotions during pregnancy. Her findings demonstrate clearly how psychoanalytical evidence enhances, deepens and supports observational data on the remarkable behavioural and psychological continuities between pre-natal and post-natal life.

Excerpt

Dr Alessandra Piontelli, a medical practitioner, child psychotherapist, and psychoanalyst, has written an original and controversial book. in it she does something no one has done before. She observes eleven fetuses (three singletons and four sets of twins) in the womb using ultrasound scans, and she then observes their development at home from birth up to the age of four years. She includes a description of the psychoanalytic psychotherapy of one of the research children, and the psychoanalysis of five other very young children whose behaviour in analysis suggested to Dr Piontelli that they were deeply preoccupied with their experiences in the womb.

The study is, as she says, ethological, preliminary, and descriptive. It cannot prove or disprove hypotheses. Her central finding is that there is a remarkable continuity of behaviour before and after birth. This finding is at once striking and obvious-obvious, that is, once one has had such clear descriptions of it. Like Freud, who said that it was his fate to discover what every nursemaid knew (infantile sexuality), Dr Piontelli has discovered what many parents have always thought-that each fetus, like each newborn baby, is a highly individual creature. the newborn baby is not 'nature' waiting for 'nurture' to interact with him. in Dr Piontelli's view, nature and nurture have been interacting for so long in the womb that it is impossible to disentangle them; even the idea of nature and nurture as separate entities comes to seem much too crude to be useful.

Dr Piontelli describes the fetal observations, the ensuing post-natal observations, and the analysis of the small children in meticulous detail. It makes fascinating reading. the twins Marisa and Beatrice hit each other in the womb and continued to do so after birth as soon as their motor development allowed it. the twins Alice and Luca stroked each other in the womb through the dividing membrane, and at the age of one year a favourite game of theirs was to stroke each other from either side of a curtain. Marco, who buried his face in the placenta as if it were

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