From Conception to the End of the First Hour

By Bill Swartley

This is a very brief summary of the various early traumas which some people have encountered in their lives, up to the first hour after birth. Obviously not all these are important for everyone, and you personally may have experienced none of them.

The later traumas described by Bowlby, Klein, Janov and others are also very important but are much more often described in easily available sources. These very early traumas are not much written about at present, and are not so well known, and this is the first time they have ever been put together in this way. Dr Swartley has performed a major task by making them available so succinctly.
-- John Rowan

Note: In the descriptions below, "Typical Body Movement" refers to the type of movement usually seen in a group or individual session where the person is re-living this trauma. This is to help the group leader or therapist recognise what the person is going through, since all these traumas are pre-verbal.


Also terms: "conception shock" by Fodor and Peerbolte.

Duration: Sperms travel from the cervix to the outer end of the Fallopian tube in less than one hour. Unfertilized egg survives about 12 hours, sperms live up to 72 hours.

Major Psychological Characteristic: Psychosomatic energy is directed toward either:

  1. Breaking into something = Sperm's viewpoint

  2. Allowing something to come in = Egg's viewpoint

  3. Both of the above

Typical Body Movement: Hands at side, feet move like a tail, most of the physical activity is focused at the top of the head.

Negative indications: Body does NOT assume foetal position

Legs NOT used to PUSH

Biology: "The ovaries of the new-born female contain approximately 80,000 ova, which is many more than she will require during her reproductive life. During each menstrual cycle about 250 ova commence to develop, but usually only one is destined to be properly ripened and shed in the middle of the cycle. A developing ovum lies within a small cyst known as a Graafian follicle which gradually enlarges and migrates towards the surface of the ovary. When it is fully ripe it bulges as a dome shaped protuberance from the surface of the ovary, measuring almost half an inch in diameter. The actual rupture of the follicle seems to be a natural conclusion to the gradual enlargement of the cyst-like swelling. The follicular fluid contained within the cyst is spilt into the abdominal cavity carrying the tiny delicate ovum into the fimbriated end of the Fallopian tube, The fimbria help to collect and guide the fluid and the ovum into the tube where fertilization takes place. The muscular wall of the Fallopian tube contracts and relaxes rhythmically so that fluid is drawn into it. The minute cells lining the inner surface contain specialized hair-like structures known as cilia which wave in unison and help to move fluid along."

Gordon Bourne, Pregnancy , London: Pan Books, 1975 (paperback) p. 42-43 Note: The release of the egg from the ovary may also be viewed as the "first split"(rather than reductive cell division) but only Peerbolte reports patients attempting to regress back -to the ovary.

"The actual mechanism of penetration of the ovum by the sperm is not known. It is believed that the sperm makes head-on contact with the ovum and gradually penetrates the wall of the ovum by virtue of its hard-swimming velocity." Bourne, ibid., p. 61

"While only one sperm is capable of actually fertilizing an ovum, it is probable that many sperms have to be present in order for fertilization to occur. The ovum is surrounded by a gelatinous material which can be liquefied by by hyaluronidase, an enzyme carried by the sperms. No single sperm can carry sufficient hyaluronidase to liquefy enough of the gelatinous material to penetrate the ovum. The hyaluronidase of several sperms is thought to be required for sufficient liquefaction to allow one sperm to penetrate the ovum." Bourne, ibid., p. 60-61

"Hormonal fluids, the male as well as the female, are important with regard to conception. It will make a great difference in the tempo of conception whether the one or the other dominates. A considerable retardation can be expected, e.g. if there is too little hyaluronidase or too much of the salts of hyaluronic acid. This slowing down of the process of conception can even go to such lengths that finally there is no conception at all." Peerbolte, see below p. 81-82

Degree of Trauma: Correlates negatively with degree conception /child) wanted by (1) mother and (2) father.

Example: A planned child who is conceived in orgiastic union should experience little or no conception trauma (conception shock). Exception - a father can desire conception as part of an attack on the mother.

Major Writers: Isadore Sadger, "Preliminary Study of the Psychic Life of the Foetus and the Primary Germ", Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 28, No. 3 (July 1941).

Nandor Fodor, New Approaches to Dream Interpretation, New Hyde Park, NY: University Books,1951,Chapter 3.

M. Lietaert Peerbolte, Psychic Energy in Prenatal Dynamics, Wassenaar, Holland: Service Publishers (Zijeweg 5A), 1975, Chapters 3, 8, 13, 14.


Duration: First six days after conception.

Biology: Immediately after fertilization the fertilized egg enters the fimbriated (bordered with hairs) end of the Fallopian tube (or fertilization occurs within the Fallopian tube).

Each tube is approximately four inches long and about a quarter of an inch thick.

The tubes consist of a fairly thick muscular coat surrounding a very complex inner lining, or mucous membrane, which secretes special material to nourish the fertilized egg. Fertilized egg sub-divides into two and the two cells split again for seven days. Four days after conception a cystic space appears in the centre of the morula (up to about 32 cells) and it is then called blastocyst. The cells around the outer surface of the blastocyst continue to multiply and by the seventh day have formed sprout-like projections called chorionic villi.

Major Writer: Peerbolte, ibid., Chapter 8


Also Termed: "incomplete embedding", "postconceptional menstruation" and "threat of abortion" by Peerbolte.

Duration: Seventh day after conception.

Major Psychological Characteristic: is directed toward:

  1. locating the right spot on a body;

  2. a battle against resistance to attach;

  3. 'plugging in' to a source of energy outside the fertilized egg.

Typical Body Movement: In most cases, the psychosomatic energy is focused in the forehead, which searches for the right spot of skin on another person on which to attach.

The resistance experienced by the ovum in people regressed to this trauma is either due to white corpuscles sent by the mother's body to resist the invasion of the fertilized egg (because the wall of the uterus apparently does not have any means to distinguish a fertilized egg from a foreign body) and/or the mother's attempt to abort implantation through internal secretions. Focus is on the 'skin' of both the fertilized egg and the uterus.

Negative indications: Body does NOT assume foetal position. Legs NOT used to PUSH.

Biology: "The cells around the outer surface of the blastacyst continue to multiply and by the seventh day have formed sprout-like projections called chorionic villi which will immediately embed the blastocyst in whatever tissue it finds itself." Bourne, ibid., p. 61

"About 7 to 9 days after conception, when there are several hundred cells, the thicker or embryonic end of the sphere makes contact with the uterus, usually with the back wall, This contact is not casual, since the blastocyst appears to be 'glued' to the wall. Soon it vigorougly erodes through the uterine lining as though it were an invading parasite intent on nesting down for the next nine months. The uterus at first reacts to this invasion of the blastocyst as it would to the presence of an intruder. The lining tissues actively swell outward to engulf the embryo, and at the same time marshal thousands of white blood cells to clean up any debris. Then resistance turns to welcome. The blood vessels of the uterus become greatly engorged with blood, the lining glands secrete their fluids more actively, and the uterine tissues seem to make a place for the embryo - some tissues even form a protective cordon around the embryo.

In the relationship between the embryo and the uterus the embryo seems to dominate, although with the acquiescence of the mother's body. The embryo ruptures many of the small maternal blood vessels in its path and is literally bathed in the blood. The hemorrhaging tissues of the uterus liberate a starch called glycogen, which, when broken down into glucose, serves as food for the embryo. This is the first outside source of nutrition for the early embryo, and it immediately gluts itself." -- R. Rugh & L. Shettles, From Conception to Birth, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1972

"If the ovum arrives in the cavity of the uterus before the seventh day it is unable to embed itself and therefore dies, or conversely if it fails to arrive in the cavity of the uterus bu the seventh day it embeds itself within the Fallopian tube and forms an ectopic or tubal pregnancy." Bourne, ibid, p.40

"This primal threat of abortion due to postconceptional menstruation is less uncommon than might be thought." Peerbolte, ibid., p. 173

Degree of Trauma: Correlates negatively with:
  1. degree mother desires a child (how much her body aids and/or resists implantation;

  2. 'will' of the fertilized egg to implant, especially against strong opposition by the wall of the uterus (mother);

  3. the physical strength of the fertilized egg when it reaches the uterus (how much energy it still has stored within it)

Major Writers: Peerbolte, ibid., Chapters 12, 14. Ronald Laing, Facts of Life, London: Penguin, 1976 (paperback)


Also Termed: "Basic Perinatal Matrix I" by Grof.

Duration: Approximately nine months in womb.

Degree of Trauma: Some degree of trauma may be inherent in normal splitting. On the other hand, some people report pleasure during what may be memory of the splitting during normal embryological development.

A. Development of Internal Sensation (in addition to sensation on the 'skin' of the embryo)

Major Psychological Characteristic: Senses develop on the surface of internal organs. One of the first systems to develop sensations is the gastro-intestinal tract from mouth to anus.

Biology: By the end of the third week after conception the fertilized egg is "approximately 2 mm in length (visible to the naked eye). The foetus, within the newly formed amniotic sac, is beginning to take shape into its major component parts. The spine is beginning to form and a rudimentary nervous system is just recognisable.11 Bourne, ibid., p. 66

B. Development of the Nervous System

Major Psychological Characteristic: Both external ('skin') and internal sensations are transmitted to the newly formed brain.

Biology: During the fourth week after conception, "the rudimentary brain is completed and a spinal column as well as a spinal cord is properly formed". Bourne, ibid., p. 66

C. Development of the Reproductive System

D. Development of the Circulatory System

Circulatory System includes the embryo, umbilical cord and placenta.

Major Psychological Characteristic: Energy is experienced as flowing to and from the placenta via the cord as a unitary system.

Biology: By the end of the fourth week after conception "the first simple rudimentary heart and circulation are beginning to function. Blood vessels are forming in the umbilical cord." Bourne, ibid., p. 66

By the end of the fifth week, the heart has started to beat. (The foetus is approximately 1.3 cm.)

By the end of the tenth week after conception. "the chorionic villi at the site of the original implantation develop with immense speed to form the placenta (or afterbirth), while the chorionic villi over the remainder of the embryo gradually shrivel and die." Bourne, ibid., p. 81

After the twelfth week after conception, a proper placenta is formed.

"The placenta is responsible for the selective transfer to the foetus of oxygen and other necessary substances as well as removal from the foetus of its waste products. Everything that is required for the growth and maturation of the foetus must pass the placenta, so the placenta is responsible for the passage of not only oxygen, but also carbohydrates, fatty acids, protein, complicated amino acids, vitamins and essential elements such as calcium. Excretion products from the foetus are absorbed into the maternal circulation and some of these, sucb as carbon dioxide, are exhaled by the mother from her lungs, whilst others such as urea are excreted by her kidneys," Bourne, ibid., p. 82

Major Writer: Peerbolte, ibid., Chapter 4

E. Development of the Brain

The brain splits into at least three sub-systems:

Jung's Terms
Janov's Terms
Melzack's Terms
MacLean's Terms
Mott's Terms
1. Sensing Function
First Line
Sensory-discriminative Dimension
Reptilian Brain
2. Feeling Function
Second Line
Motivational-affective dimension
A. Reticular formation
B. Limbic system
Paleo-mammalian Brain
(Limbic system)
3. Thinking Function Third Line
Cognitive-evaluative dimension
Neomamallian Brain
Cerebral Cortices
4. Intuiting Function

Major Writers: Ronald Melzack, The Puzzle of Pain, NY & Harmondsworth (Middlesex, England): Penguin, 1973, pp. 96-103

Paul MacLean, "The brain in relation to empathy and medical education", Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, Vol. 144, ps. 374-382. Reprints available from the author: 9916 Logan Ave.,Potomac, MD 20854.

Arthur Janov, The Primal Man,London:Abacus,1975 (paperback)

Francis Mott, Universal Design of Creation,1965 Available from the author: Mark Beech, Edenbridge, Kent, England.



  1. Attempted abortion.
  2. Psychological shock in mother, e.g. death of one of mother's parents.

Duration: Any time during gestation period (about 9 months).

Degree of Trauma: By definition, all abnormal uterine experiences are traumatic. For example, the suicide of a grandparent is especially traumatic to the foetus. Likewise, an attempted abortion performed by the father.

Major Writer: Nandor Fodor, In Search of the Beloved, NY: University Books, 1949

VI. BIRTH TRAUMA = Third Major Splitting Also Termed: "Basic Perinatal Matrix II and III" by Grof.

Major Psychological Characteristic: Psychosomatic energy is directed toward breaking out of (motherts womb).

Major Characteristic of BPM II: (Also called First Stage of labour (dilation of the cervix) ) "No exit" = being squeezed from all sides but no way to escape the pressure and associated pain and panic.
Major Characteristic of BPM III: (Also called Second Stage of labour (from fully dilated cervix to delivery of the baby) ) "See the light" = exit = direction out. Fusion of intense pain and pleasure while attempting to get out to the light. "Volcanic ecstasy."

Birth may also be viewed from the mother's viewpoint (while identified with the mother) and also the grandmother's viewpoint (while mother relives identification with her mother during her own birth).

Biology: "The reason why labour starts is not known although there is today an increasing amount evidence to show that the foetus, or the placenta (which is under the control of the foetus), produces the hormone which leads to the onset of labour, and thereafter controls the course of labour." Bourne, ibid., p. 331

Degree of Trauma: Correlates positively with the degree of mutual cooperation between mother and foetus which is determined by many factors, such as:

  1. Degree to which mother (i) desired and (ii) planned pregnancy.

  2. First delivery or not. In general, first child suffers most trauma for physical and emotional reasons. The mother is usually most frightened during the first delivery. Any trauma during the mother's birth is usually 'triggered' most by the birth of her first child.

  3. Size of mother's pelvic bone (smaller the pelvis, more traumatic the birth).

  4. Size of child's head and shoulders, umbilical cord, etc. (larger the head and shoulders, the more traumatic).

  5. Health of mother, as influenced by diet, addictions, amount of sleep and rest, etc.

  6. Age of mother (can be too young or too old).

  7. Drugs administered by obstetrician which inhibit participation of the mother (most of which pass through to inhibit participation of the foetus).

  8. Age of foetus (premature, full term or postmature).

  9. Disease(s) in mother (heart disease, diabetes, anaemia, etc.).

  10. Foetal position - head first usually least traumatic; a Breech (buttocks first) is usually most traumatic.

Psychological Conclusions (COEX) Resulting from Birth Trauma:

  1. Most traumatic birth experience is when, if you continue to follow your instincts to get born, you will kill yourself. You can only conclude:

      (a) I can't trust my most basic instincts.

      (b) I can't trust my "real self"

      (c) Life = Death

    Example - when umbilical cord is around your neck so to push forward is to die.

  2. Second most traumatic birth experience is when you must choose to destroy your mother (part of a single unit of which you are also a part) or be killed by her. You can only conclude:

    (a) Life = to destroy, to kill

    (b) I am a killer = secretly bad

    even if no one realizes what you have done.

  3. Third most traumatic birth experience is when you are delivered by medical intervention (such as with forceps). You can only conclude:

    (a) I can't finish anything important or difficult by myself

    (b) I must wait for help.

  4. Fourth most traumatic birth experience - there are two types of caesarian birth:

    (a) Emergency caesarian, when labour is begun but impossible to finish, and

    (b) Planned caesarian, initiated before labour begins.

Emergency caesarians often experience being pulled in half from opposite directions (head engaged, and pulled by the feet). Both types of caesarian frequently have a vague feeling of being 'cheated'. They feel they are missing something which they cannot describe.

Writers: Otto Rank, Trauma of Birth, (1923) NY & London7-Harper & Row, 1973 (paperback)

Fodor, ibid., (both books)

Peerbolte, ibid., Chapters 1, 2

Ashley Montague, Touching, NY & London: Harper & Row, 1978 (paperback) (2 ed)

Stanislav Grof, Realms of the Human Unconscious, NY: E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 7975 (paperback)

VII. UMBILICAL TRAUMA (Part of birth trauma during BPM IV)

Also Termed: "umbilical shock" by Peerbolte.

Cutting of the umbilical cord and loss of placenta is experienced as a loss of a 'twin' or part of the foetal self'.

The placenta reaches maturity at approximately the thirty-second week after conception, after which it slowly undergoes very mild ageing, degenerative process. The placenta weighs approximately 1 1/4 lb. at term, or about one-sixth of the baby's weight.

Major Writers: Peerbolte, ibid., Chapter 4

Fodor, ibid.


Duration: First hour after birth.

Occurs during first hour after birth unless infant and mother are drugged or in physiological shock due to a difficult delivery and/or routine hospital procedure such as insertion of silver nitrate in infant's eyes, bright lights, loud sounds and/or rapid separation of infant and mother.

Major Characteristics: Psychosomatic energy is directed toward re-establishing psychosomatic contact with mother outside the womb via:

  1. Eye contact - at 9 to 15 inches inf can see quite clearly after birth.

  2. Skin contact (licking seems best).

  3. Smell

  4. High pitched voice of the mother.

  5. Complex, synchronized head movements (appears most like a mutual seduction in very slow motion).

Major Writers: Marshall Klaus & John Kennel, Maternal-Infant Bonding , St Louis: Mosby Co., 1976. Henry Kimpton, London W1)

(C.V.Mosby Co.,86 Northline Rd.,Toronto M4B 3E5)

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