Also described as ‘the science of affectivity’, it is the ability of human beings to communicate at a deep level through a combination of listening and feeling and research now establishes that we can communicate in this way before we are born, from our mother’s womb. Unlike talking, haptonomy combines feelings, thoughts and words and has also been described as ‘spontaneous empathy’ or psycho-tactile contact’. From one human being to another it is a way of relating in a special way.
Research has shown that the link of communication between an unborn child and other human beings is very real and so parents-to-be can indeed, interact with their baby in the mother’s womb. In fact, during the last trimester of a pregnancy, research shows that if the father puts his hands on the bare stomach of his wife something very special happens. By looking at ultrasound images, the unborn baby will respond to the father’s touch. It is like the baby sees it as an invitation to relate and will move towards the father’s hand and snuggle up to it. Then, when the father removes his hand, the baby will move away too. This has proved that there is an instinctive urge of the baby to establish a contact of communication.
With babies who engage in haptonomy before birth, they tend to develop very well after birth. Measurements and studies have been taken and these advanced developments can be distinguished dramatically. These babies tend to excel with better perception, verbal and attention skills, have higher IQs, and are also less irritable, have less weight problems and fewer gastrointestinal problems.
For the mothers, haptonomy can also be a great help with labour. Problems often arise because the birth canal of the pelvis is very narrow. Often, the final 2cm of the space required for birth is missing so drugs are administered to aid the increased dilation needed. If there is no progress with the dilation then the mother and baby can be at risk and a difficult labour ensues and can result in a caesarean delivery. When mothers engage in haptonomy what can happen is that the pubic cartilage and sacropelvic joint will loosen. When this happens the birth canal is given the vital 2cm required. The communication between the mother and unborn child is then utilised to their mutual benefit.
In hospitals, it is often observed during prenatal exams mothers waking their unborn babies without saying a word. For example, if a mother is shocked because she is told during an ultrasound scan that her baby is not spontaneously moving this can often be enough to wake the baby up. Almost always, the baby will start moving intensely so that this can then be seen on the monitor.
During the 1980s, this phenomenon was discovered by Dr. Eric Reinhold of Stuttgart, Germany. He observed humorously that, “Without saying a word, mother wakes you up. The first time now, but it probably won’t be the last”.
Another doctor said that “a huge, unused, human potential lies buried in this area of prenatal relating”.
This is a fairly unknown science but it is becoming more and more common with parents-to-be, especially in France.
By Eirian Hallinan