It is widely believed that our psychological disposition derives from heredity. Most likely, however, a substantial portion of it does not. I believe, and research substantiates that womb-life has a significant effect on the development of our personality, which results in different kinds of postures (defeated vs. upright), modes of expression (timid vs. garrulous) and emotions (fearful vs. self-assured). Adverse early experience in the developing fetus or infant is also transmuted into mistrust, fear, or other later aberrations in the personality. The tendency toward depression, for example, is often predicted by the mother’s emotional state while carrying.
The baby, in the womb and as a newly born infant, has the most wide-open emotional window she is ever going to have. Everything that happens during pregnancy has a great impact and we should not minimize what a carrying mother can do for the good or bad of her child. The fetus reacts to the womb environment by readjusting its vital signs, hormones, and neurotransmitters to adapt to a new reality; he is getting ready for life in the world. During pregnancy, the baby’s nerve cells are rapidly forming, and what you do to yourself while carrying has a lifelong effect. A dose of tranquilizers, a few glasses of wine or severe stress are not benign.
As an expecting mother, please watch your stress. There is no way to eliminate stress entirely, but it can be managed. Do not plan a new business or start a series of complicated projects while pregnant. The baby feels your anxiety and will suffer. Try to work out problems with your spouse before you get pregnant. That doesn’t mean you should never argue again, but try to resolve the more serious difficulties before you bring a baby into the world.
As for whether it’s a good idea to take tranquilizers and painkillers to relieve anxiety, I’m not sure. All psychiatric drugs cross the placenta and enter into the fetal blood system. Once the drug has entered the fetal bloodstream, it has easy access to the brain and creates an imprint that resets a set-point of hormones and physiologic chemicals so that later we lack serotonin or thyroid, for example. From a professional standpoint, I always say no drugs; we’ve seen that they alter the fetus’s physiology.
My aim is not to scare expectant mothers. Rather it is to alert everyone of the profound influence of gestational life. It is a matter of irreversibility—what happens during gestation endures as if that were our genetic legacy.
If up till now you have done something not so hot for the baby and you feel bad, that’s okay.
You just made a mistake. Now do what you can to change. For pregnant mothers, there is no greater advice I can give than this: be open, expressive, and feeling with your children. A caring mother gives her baby the best chance for long-term well-being. Even if you don’t eat carrots and tomatoes when you should, love will help.
Dr. Arthur Janov, one of the world’s leading psychologists, is the founder and director of The Primal Center in Los Angeles, California. He holds a PhD in psychology from Claremont Graduate School, where he is in the Academic Hall of Fame. He is the author of ten books, including the best seller The Primal Scream and his newest book Life Before Birth. For additional information please visit: http://www.primaltherapy.com/