Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Trends and Influences in Preand Perinatal Psychology A Summary

Academic journal article Journal of Prenatal & Perinatal Psychology & Health

Trends and Influences in Preand Perinatal Psychology A Summary

Article excerpt

Abstract: The field of preand perinatal psychology (PPN) is informed by the work of many individuals, therapeutic and academic communities, and scientific achievements. Trends and influences on the field itself can be divided into several main categories: origins, historical threads, formal channels, legitimizing scientific studies and approaches, and finally, integration of therapeutic approaches. It is difficult to put all of these influences in one chronological chart; it is more like they weave together to form a tapestry. The road to the present has been long and winding, and hard to capture, although colorful. The pioneering individuals who have carried this paradigm since its beginning are to be congratulated. The one idea for the reader to grasp from this paper is that therapies, approaches, and teachings are now integrating into a much smoother array of healing and educational tools.

Keywords: Pre and perinatal psychology, History of psychology, Therapeutic approaches, Theory

Exploring the categories within the pre and perinatal (PPN) paradigm is worth several hundred pages of stories, studies, and experiences of the people upon whose shoulders new students stand. So, for the aspiring learner, we have divided historical and important information into the previously mentioned categories that are starting points for further research. Each category is summarized with a brief description and important names and dates.


Starting with Otto Rank (1924/1929) in 1924 with his slim book in German, The Trauma of Birth, psychoanalytic theory included birth and prenatal experience as influential in psychological and mental health. Rank was a protégée of Sigmund Freud, although their relationship ended after Freud rejected Rank's trauma of birth theory, resulting in lack of focus on birth trauma in psychology until the latter half of the 20th century when it was, in effect, rediscovered by theorists on both sides of the Atlantic. The psychoanalytic approach dominated the field of psychology for several decades and continues to be a vital part of psychological theory and practice today.

A major branch of psychoanalysis, originating with the work of Wilhelm Reich (1933/1936), was the development of body psychology, more recently known as somatic psychology. Reich was part of Freud's "inner circle," in the early 20th century, but left the fold over differences with Freud. His writing and therapeutic approach on the body-mind connection helped shape the field of body psychotherapy and core energetics.

A pediatric psychoanalyst who contributed to the pre and perinatal thread was Donald Winnicott (1958), who was a pediatrician at Paddington Green Children's Hospital and the Queen's Hospital for Children in London. His 40-year career had a huge impact on maternal-infant relationships. Winnicott was convinced of the efficacy of recognizing and working with birth memories.

A virtually unknown analyst, Sabina Spielrein (1994), wrote the very first paper that ever dealt with the psychology of conception. It was called "Destruction as a Cause of Coming into Being" and was delivered in Vienna in 1912 to the small circle of analysts around Freud. It is a paper at least 50 years ahead of its time and even today it could be studied to advantage.

The first person who attempted to systematically chart the unknown territory of intra-uterine life was the brilliant Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing (1976). In his groundbreaking book, The Facts of Life, Laing writes, "It seems to me credible...that all our experience in our life cycle from cell one is absorbed and stored from the beginning, perhaps especially in the beginning. How that may happen I do not know. How can one generate the billions of cells that I now am? We are impossible but for the fact that we are" p. 30. Later he asserts, "It is at least conceivable to me that myths, legends, stories, dreams, fantasies and conduct may contain strong reverberations of our uterine experience" p. …

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