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Prenatal Stress
50 Year Anniversary of Dianetics Discovery

May 9th marked the 49th anniversary of the book Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard, and a quiet, half-century revolution in thought. The subject? Prenatal influence.

Lest it be forgotten, before the landmark self-help classic was published, the womb was considered a wonderful place to curl up and wait -- not, as the recent USA Today headline proclaimed, "The Womb is No Haven." The viewpoint that prevailed until the early 1950s was that the unborn child was a vegetable, that it saw, heard and felt nothing. Now, the virtually universal end-of-the-century idea is that mothers should take care to avoid harmful stimuli and practices such as smoking and alcohol, because the fetus is a sentient being -- not only aware of everything but subject to all manner of dangerous prenatal influences.

But what brought about the cultural reversal? As Dianetics rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list in the summer of 1950, it provided conclusive proof that any individual could go back into the past, to conception itself, and recount who was there, what was said and what went on. And thousands of individuals reading and using the book found themselves curled up in fetal positions while they practiced Dianetics techniques. Indeed, according to Dianetics, experiences of pre-birth pain and unconsciousness, called prenatals, are very real. And as for prenatal living conditions, "It is very noisy in the womb," L. Ron Hubbard wrote. "Intestinal squeaks and groans, flowing water, and other body activities of the mother produce a continual sound. It is also very tight in later prenatal life. In a high blood pressure case, it is extremely horrible in the womb." Fortunately, the ability of the fetus to repair damage is also phenomenal.

"The only test is whether or not a fact works. If it does work and can be used, it is a scientific fact. And the prenatal ... is a scientific fact," according to Mr. Hubbard. The book spawned all manner of scientific studies over the ensuing decades.

In the 1980s, Dr. Thomas Verny published The Secret Life of the Unborn Child, wherein he declared a child's personality to be quite significantly shaped by prenatal and birthing experiences -- all of which became the standard of the natural childbirth movement through the late 1970s and early 1980s. Finally in the late 1990's the scientific and medical communities have begun seriously to catch up with the discoveries of Mr. Hubbard. In recent pages of USA Today alone, for example, five scientific studies are quoted that purport to show the relationship between stress in the womb and later adult illness and behavior. According to Dr. Pathik Wadhwa of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and others, the uterine environment "shapes the baby's development, and a lot of maternal stress may predispose babies for higher risk of disease." Newsweek recently devoted an entire issue to women's health with a significant portion focused on the importance of prenatal care.

Nearly 18 million people have read L. Ron Hubbard's classic -- Dianetics. It is no wonder and perhaps no coincidence that thousands of expectant mothers are now insisting on silent childbirth and a stress-free pregnancy.

Contact: Barbara Roland, Church of Scientology, 2636 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland 97232. 503-963-8121.