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kevbo's avatar

How valid are memories of birth trauma?

Asked by kevbo (25621points) January 23rd, 2011 from iPhone

I have two greater family members (an aunt and a distant in-law) who each have cited birth trauma (being born during anesthetized labor and/or being schedule fed instead of fed when hungry) as a source of unresolved suffering in their lives. Both are aged hippies of a sort, and surely both have experimented with drugs to one degree or another. One has pursued resolution for a number of years via primal therapy. The other apparently “relived and remembered” the birth trauma originally via an LSD trip and embarked on a bona fide academic career in an attempt to research the parallel biochemistries of birth (the naturally-produced anesthetics secreted by mother and fetus/newborn) and ingestion of LSD. Both cite the initial trauma and its persistence to remain unresolved as a dominant negative force in their lives that kept them from achieving success and fulfillment—as if they were not born whole or given a fair start. Both were at one time very academically gifted.

Was this idea of unresolved birth trauma one that creeped through the counterculture generation/movement? Does it persist today? Does anyone feel their experience is similar? What’s the deal with this idea? I’m puzzled now that I have two independent claims.

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14 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

I would hesitate to even dignify any of that with even the term “junk science.”

Valid in the sense only where we can see that’s what they believe (i.e., it is valid to them and them alone). There is nothing to indicate that the conclusion is true.

Jeruba's avatar

I was part of that generation. There were all kinds of so-called therapies and fads for self-exploration, healing, self-realization, etc., going around. They passed through in waves, and I don’t recall any as more prominent than another. Sure, this might be one of them, but from my perspective there was nothing special about it—just another con job perpetrated on a lot of sincere, susceptible people who were full of readiness to believe.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

It’s valid in that their pain is real, and they feel that those traumas are why they are in pain. Whether those memories are based in reality is a totally different matter, but that’s not really pertinent to their healing. However, I believe that many who look for help in birthing trauma are looking for a quick fix, when the issue is generally much more complicated. Likewise, I believe that most who try to heal birth trauma are charlatans.

Nullo's avatar

I honestly don’t think that there’s any way to confirm or deny the validity of birth trauma. I have a low opinion of medical and psychological fads, and hold this in the same contempt. I’m not too keen on psychology in general, precisely because, outside of the blatantly obvious, you won’t find a statement not being chaperoned by a qualifier, if the psychologist is any good. That, and the field can’t seem to decide what it thinks.

Humans have been having traumatic deliveries for a very, very long time. We’ve managed thus far, so I’m inclined to say that it’s either misattribution, or else some people really need to suck it up.

stardust's avatar

I can’t say whether it’s valid or not, but everyone’s feelings certainly are.

Fyrius's avatar

Doesn’t the human brain only even start forming memories at all years after birth?

It’s disturbingly easy to accidentally make something up about your past and mistake it for a memory, as ridiculous as that sounds. For that matter, even genuine memories deform over the years to a point where you’ll end up resolutely remembering things that never actually happened.

Further reading: Science Proves You’re Stupid

nikipedia's avatar

@Fyrius is correct. There is abundant evidence that we are wholly incapable of retaining memories formed before about 3 years of age.

nebule's avatar

Does the absence of memory preclude the experience?

JLeslie's avatar

I think this type of bullshit ruins people and families.

kevbo's avatar

@Nullo, the only clarification I would make regarding your statement is that the trauma in these cases are attributed to anesthetized birth, which is a relatively modern practice. In other words, the trauma came from the short circuiting of the body’s (mother’s and/or fetus’) natural dosing process, which may provide “wholeness” via a “correct” sequence of dosing. Sort of like the difference between the sequence of firings during a normal rocket launch vs. picking up the rocket, tossing it in the air, and then expecting it to fire itself the rest of the way. That’s more along the lines of what they relate.

snowberry's avatar

I managed to live through a traumatic birth. I was hospitalized for 6 months afterward, and was not expected to live to be two years old. I have many problems that very possibly are a result of those issues, and the lack of human touch (doctors from that era were more focused on keeping the baby alive than providing the necessary touching, rocking, and general love that babies need from their first hours. I did not receive any of that.

As a result of that, I never bonded with my mother. It is very possible that my other issues come from my birth trauma and first months of life.

I had a doctor who told me that birth trauma like I received can change a baby at a cellular level. I am not sure what she meant by that, but I certainly have struggled with everything from reading body language, to auditory processing issues, balance, eye-hand coordination issues, and an inability to cope with stress.

Through a very specialized (and expensive) kind of therapy I managed (at age 55) to overcome many of these problems. I need to go back to finish up, but it’s expensive.

Do I remember any of the things that happened to me as a newborn? No, I cannot say I do..

JustJessica's avatar

I know now through therapy there were things that happen to me that I didn’t remember and now do, that have made a huge impact in my life before I remembered them. So maybe the birth trauma memories could be true. But I’m no scientist.

Nimis's avatar

I think birth trauma is valid as an experience that we move through and carry with us. Though I don’t think it’s valid in any way that we can readily grasp on an everyday level. Prememory primal stuff…if that makes any sense.

I think it’s real. But I also think the discussion of it is hippie bullshit at the same time.

longtresses's avatar

If you are interested, you could check out Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, an expert on healing trauma. His book discusses how trauma is formed in the nervous system and gives plenty of examples of how people recover from trauma.

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