How Our Birth Practices Influence the Wiring of Our Brains.

April 22, 2011

Hebbian’s Theory of Neuro-Plasticity

This theory was introduced by Donald Hebb in 1949. It is also known as Hebb’s rule, Hebb’s postulate, and cell assembly theory. It states:

“Let us assume that the persistence or repetition of a reverberatory activity (or “trace”) tends to induce lasting cellular changes that add to its stability.… When an axon of cell A is near enough to excite a cell B and repeatedly or persistently takes part in firing it, some growth process or metabolic change takes place in one or both cells such that A’s efficiency, as one of the cells firing B, is increased.”

This theory is often summarized as “Cells that fire together, wire together.” It attempts to explain “associative learning”, in which simultaneous activation of cells leads to pronounced increases in synaptic strength between those cells.

Imagine yourself experiencing what a baby goes through during a typical, medically managed birth.

Which parts of your brain are firing together and wiring together?

  • Your little developing baby brain is flooded with synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) which renders you insensitive to your own oxytocin. Oxytocin is the love and bonding hormone in all mammals. The first time you meet your mom, you aren’t feeling the oxytocin rush that initiates the life-long ability to bond and connect properly with other human beings.

  • Your mom has agreed to an epidural, which lowers her endorphin levels. Endorphins are pain-killers which are released in response to both pleasure and pain. As mom becomes numb, your levels of endorphins also drop, and your ability to feel comfortable and relaxed during the birth process is compromised. There are no epidurals for the baby.

  • As you squeeze through a dark, tight space, someone is aggressively pulling on your head, with metal tongs, or a pair of gripping hands. Your neck is over-stretched, your spine is twisted and strained, something “pops”. This is your first experience with pain.

  • Even though your lungs were adequately cleared by the compression of a vaginal birth, a hard, cold rod (suctioning device) is shoved up your mouth and nose just as your little head is born. (Imagine emerging from a dark cave into bright lights and immediately having something shoved up your nose and in your mouth. You would feel assaulted and terrified.) Next time someone tries to put something in your mouth (e.g. a breast) your fear response kicks in and you panic.

  • Bright lights are shining in your eyes which have only known the soft pinkish glow inside the uterus. Strange noises and sights and smells suddenly overwhelm all of your senses.

  • As your tiny lungs are struggling to inflate for the first time, your umbilical cord is cut and you are quickly cut off from your oxygen supply, your built-in life support. Your lungs begin to burn and you feel a strangling need to breathe. If you don’t manage to take a breath quickly enough, you will be subjected first to even MORE aggressive suctioning, and then to air forced into your lungs, or perhaps a tube put down your throat. If only your doctor had allowed you to stay connected to mom’s body, which has been breathing with you and for you perfectly for nine months.

  • Your sensitive skin, which has only ever felt the touch of warm water, is vigorously rubbed with a rough towel. You are placed on a cold surface and rubbed some more. Then you are poked, prodded, pulled, and generally manhandled, feeling completely out of control of your new little body.

  • After a brief visit with mom, you are whisked away to a large, bright room, left alone to lie in a box instead of the warm gentle cocoon you were nurtured in for so long.

  • If you are a baby boy, soon after this traumatic series of events, you are taken away from your source of comfort again, stretched out wide and strapped to a board. A needle is inserted into your most vulnerable parts. A metal ring is forced underneath your delicate foreskin, which is then cut away. You are given only sugar water from a dropper for comfort. As the saying goes, “Circumcision is where sex meets violence for the first time.”

We are a world made up of people who were brutalized in this way during our most formative moments. What does this mean for society? What else holds more responsibility for the human epidemics of depression, anxiety, autism, violence, chronic pain, lack of trust, selfishness, fear, inability to love? What are we doing to a mother’s ability to bond with her child, to heal both physically and emotionally, and to trust her parenting instincts? Where are the fathers who are strong enough to oppose the medical community and protect their wives and children? If you wouldn’t let someone handle your baby this way at Wal-Mart, why would you let them do it at the hospital?
I just want you to ask yourself the question.

by Lauralyn Curtis HypnoBirthing Utah 2011

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

cassia batts April 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

i’m not saying it’s pretty… but what are the pros and cons to circumcision? i know some, and i would like to know more.

Kayleigh April 23, 2011 at 12:55 am

There is absolutely no medical benefit to circumcision whatsoever and it is deemed a cosmetic surgery by the World Health Organization. What would be your reasons for doing it? I have researched a lot about it and would love to discuss it with you :)
Here is a link to Dr. Sears-

Beverly April 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm

The link that Kayleigh provided is a great one. The pros and cons mentioned are the ones my husband and I discussed before opting to not circumsize our sons. My husband is circumcized, but we didn’t think that was an important enough reason to subject them to the cruel practices used in the procedure. I think the cons outweigh the pros by far. You might also want to google articles about men who’ve had circumcisions later in life and what their experience entailed. That also helped us.
Good luck with your research!

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