Daily Archives: January 22, 2011

Scientology Silent Births

I get many requests to comment and interview so I was not surprised by an enquiry from Cord Jefferson who is culture editor on GOOD, a cool magazine produced out of Los Angeles. He asked me about whether there was any science to the Scientologists belief of “silent births.”

John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston had appeared on Wednesday’s edition of the Today Show extolling the benefits of giving birth in total silence because L Ron Hubbard had claimed that the single source of human psychosomatic illnesses is all the hullabaloo that goes on during birth. According to his teaching, our reactive minds are forever tarnished by the cacophony of childbirth.

Cord asked me whether there was any science to this. My reply was short

Really? What a strange belief. Frankly, I doubt it makes much

difference. The intrauterine environment is surprisingly noisy.

Sorry not to be more helpful

Imagine my surprise to see my response printed verbatum under the heading, “There’s No Science to Support Scientology’s ‘Silent Birth.” Thank Hubbard, I didn’t say anything more libelous as the Scientologists are notoriously litigious.

Researchers have found that the intrauterine acoustic environment is dominated by maternal sounds–heartbeat, breathing, the mother’s voice, borborygmi and sounds caused by body movements. Background noise is never below 28 dB and can rise to 84 dB when the mother is singing. Below 28dB is very quiet but 84dB is approaching levels at which sustained exposure can lead to hearing loss! We know that the fetus can learn their own mother’s voice as well as the theme tunes to soap operas watched during pregnancy, so if anything, Scientologists should be more concerned about what is said during pregnancy, not just birth.

Still, it is not all entirely hokum. As my colleague Andy Meltzoff’s pointed out, it can’t do any harm. In fact, it has been known for ages that mothers given choices over their own childbirth have a much more positive experience. This is the old illusion of control finding that we can tolerate more stress and pain if we believe we can do something about it. So whether it is silent delivery suites, scented candles, or verbally abusing the man who made you pass something the size of a bowling ball down your pelvic cavity, then pretty much anything goes.


Filed under In the News