Frank Lake's Maternal-Fetal Distress Syndrome:
- An Analysis -

By Stephen M. Maret, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
Caldwell University



B. Morphological and Psychological Evidence for Lake's M-FDS

1. Embryonic Development

The point of conception is the culmination of a process that had originated much earlier. The process of gametogenesis95 differs greatly in the male and female. Spermatogenesis occurs in the male gonads, the testis, requiring 64 days to yield mature spermatozoa which are produced at the rate of 300 million per day.96 Oogenesis occurs in the female gonads, the ovaries, resulting in mature ova. As early as the 50th day after the mother's own conception, the primitive cells of the ova begin to multiply, reaching several million by the 5th month of fetal life, and then degenerating to around 700,000 by birth, with the result that only 200-400 mature to become fully developed ova.97

Sometime between the eleventh and fourteenth days of a typical woman's 28-day menstrual cycle,98 ovulation occurs. A mature ovum is released into the Fallopian tube and is propelled slowly by means of hair-like cili down the oviduct towards the uterus. The ovum must be fertilized within 24 hours of ovulation by spermatozoa which have been released approximately 10 hours previous to fertilization.99 This process usually occurs in the Fallopian Tube near the ovary.

During coitus, spermatozoa, at the approximate rate of 200 million100 and transported by means of seminal fluid, are propelled by reflex muscular contractions out of the penis into the vagina. Spermatozoa can survive approximately 3-4 days and have a velocity of 1.5 mm/minute,101 both propelling themselves and being propelled by means of muscular contractions in the uterus and fallopian tubes.

Once fertilization has occurred between one sperm and the ovum, the external cell membrane of the egg changes to prevent any other sperm from penetrating.102 The result is the zygote which begins a series of mitotic divisions termed cleavage resulting in the successive increase of blastomeres.103 As this process occurs, the zygote in being propelled toward the uterine cavity, such that it arrives there 3-4 days later and is now a morula, a spherical mass with 16-32 blastomeres.104 With the addition of a central fluid cavity, the morula becomes a blastocyst,105 and within 3-4 days (approximately 6-7 days after fertilization) attaches itself to the wall of the uterus. There is already differentiation in the cells and functional integration between them.106


95"The manner in which sex cells are produced in the gonads." (Bradley M. Patton, Human Embryology [Philadelphia: The Blakiston Company, 1946], 11).

96"Moss, "In The Beginning," 4:1.


98"P.L. Williams, C.P. Wendell-Smith and Sylvia Treadgold, Basic Human Embryology (Philadelphia: J.B. Uppincott Co, 1966), 31-32.

99H. Tuchmann-Duplessis, G. David & P. Haegel, IIIustrated Human Embryology: Embryology, vol.1, trans. Lucille S. Hurdley (New York: Springer Verlag, 1971), 8.

100Patton, Human Embryology, 52.

101Tuchmann-Duplessis, David and Haegel, lllustrated Human Embryology: Embryology, 2.

102Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:2.

103Stephen G. Gilbert, Pictorial Human Embryology (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1989), 3.


105Tuchmann-Duplessis, David & Haegel, IIIustrated Human Embryology: Embryology, 14.

106Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:3.


The blastocyst quickly 'implants' into the uterine lining (uterine mucosa), eventually being totally submerged within it. This endometrium, containing blood vessels, nourishes the blastocyst, allowing implantation to occur usually before the 10th day. The process of gastrulation,107 by which three successive "germ layers" are formed by a single layer of cells on the internal surface of the embryo, results in the endoderm, the mesoderm and the ectoderm. These three eventually differentiate into the various components of the body.108

Especially crucial is the development of the neural plate from the ectodermal cells. This process, called neurulation,109 occurs between the 18th and 26th days and forms the basis for the eventual brain and spinal cord.110

As the neural plate gradually changes in form from a "groove" to a 'tube" the basic shape of the embryo begin to elongate with bulges at either end. During the third week, the nervous system develops rapidly so that by the 18th day after fertilization, primitive nerve cells are present and by the 20th day the brain, spinal cord, and the basic components of the entire nervous system are present. By 25 days, the embryonic brain has three main vesicles separated along two main grooves, foreshadowing the eventual division of hindbrain, midbrain and lorebrain111 and by the 4th week two main lobes are already apparent.112 At around the 32nd day, the first and last of the main brain vesicles divides, rendering the 5 main divisions of the brain.113

107W.J. Hamilton, J.D. Boyd and H. W. Mossman, Human Embryology: Prenatal Development of Form and Function Baltimore: The Williams & Wilkins Co., 1962), 10.

108From the endoderm: the pharynx, larynx, trachea, lungs, digestive tube, bladder, vagina, and urethrae.

From the mesoderm: muscles, connective tissue including bone and cartilage, blood, bone marrow, lymphoid tissue, blood vessels, body cavities, kidneys, and gonads.
From the ectoderm: epidermis (including skin, nails, and hair), sense organs, sinuses, mouth, anal canal, nervous tissue, some muscles and some cartilage. (Gilbert, Pictorial Human Embryology, 7).

109Tuchmann-DupIessis, David and Haegel, Illustrated Human Embryology: Embryology, 31.

110Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:4.

111David Lambert, Martyn Bramwell, and Gail Lawther, eds. The Brain (New York: G.P. Putnum Books, 1982), 48.

112James M. Tanner and Gordon Rattray Taylor, Growth (New York: Time/Life Books, 1965), 33.

113H. Tuchmann-Duplessis, G. David & P. Haegel, lllustrated Human Embryology: Nervous System and Endocrine Glands, Vol.3, trans. Lucille 8. Hurdley (New York: Springer Verlag, 1971). 34-5. The division is as follows. The prosencephalon divides Into the telencephalon and diencephalon eventually producing the cerebral cortex, whIle the rhombencephalon divides Into the metencephalon and myelencephalon, joining the mesencephalon in producing the brain stem and cerebellum.


At 5 weeks, cranial nerves begin sprouting from the brainstem114 and by the end of the 6th week, the "nervous control system" can and does control the muscles of the developing child.115 At 7 weeks, a deep crease behind the eye bud in the forebrain arises and is the rudimentary division between the forebrain division into the telencephalon (cerebral hemispheres) and diencephalon (hypothalamus and thalamus).116

The brain continues to grow with two large bursts in neural cell proliferation at 15-20 weeks and 25 weeks.117 By 24 weeks grooves and ridges called sulci begin to appear in the expanding telencephalon and the occipital lobe greatly expands.118 These sulci continue to develop until by birth all the primary sulci are present, with most of the secondary and a few of the tertiary sulci existent.119

Parallel to and interconnected with the development of the central nervous system is the development of the various specialized sense receptors. These sense develop from placodes, or "localizing thickenings of the cephalic surface ectoderm."120

The olfactory system originates as two placodes which are already apparent at 30 days. These placodal cells gradually differentiate, forming the olfactory epithelium, of nasal cavity. At about 6 weeks, these differentiated cells make contact with the olfactory zones in

114The Brain, 49.

115Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:4.

116ibid., 49.

117ibid., 48.

118"Jeanne-Claude Larroche, "The Development of the Central Nervous System During Intrauterine Life," In Human Development, ed. Frank Falkner (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co, 1966), 257-258.

119ibid., 258-60.

120Tuchmann-DupIessis, David & Hagel, Illustrated Human Embryology Nervous System and Endocrine Glands, 94.


the emerging brain,121 which in turn induces the development of olfactory bulbs. The axons of the specialized receptors gradually become more and more interconnected to the cortical area corresponding to the olfactory system. This process occurs from the 4th through the 84th day.122

The visual system begins earlier, by the 18th day, and actually originates from two of the three germ layers; the optic nerve and lens emerge from the ectoderm, while the mesoderm contributes the "accessory structures."123 The optic primordium develops for approximately 10 days before the lens primordium emerges at 29 days. The complexity of the eye and the various visual structures accompanying account for the long and gradual development of the visual system. The optic vesicle, the external layer of which forms the retina, begins to differentiate at approximately 40 days and continues until the 7th month. The optic nerve gradually develops out of the axons of differentiated ganglionic cells in each eye, which progress toward the emerging brain, and cross over each other forming the optic chiasma. As with the olfactory sense, these axons correspond to the specialized area of the Central Nervous System, and particularly the occipital lobe of the brain.124

This process starts at about 5 weeks, when eye buds also begin growing from the forebrain.125 The various other visual components, including the cornea, the iris, and the sclera, all gradually emerge and are all present by the 3rd month.126 The final event of the visual system is the separation of the eyelids during the 7th month.

The auditory system originates early in the fourth week with the emergence of the otic placode.127 The development of the ear, including both the sense of hearing and balance, is complex and involved all three embryonic germ layers. The endoderm is the source of the

121"The deep pole of the superficial cells gives rise to an axon which crosses the epithelium and the mesenchyme, and makes contact with the olfactory zones of the telencephalon." (ibid., 96.)

122ibid., 96-97.

123ibid.98. 124ibid., 100-101.

125The Brain, 49.

126Hamilton, Boyd & Mossman, Human EmbryoIogy Prenatal Developmnnt of Form and Function 374-375.

127Gilbert, Pictorial Human Embryology, 141.


inner and outer ear, the entoderm is the origin of the middle ear, and the mesoderm participates in the formation of all three.128 Very early on the ganglionic cells from the otic placode form two different clusters, the ganglion of Scarpa and of Corti. The axons of these neurons progress towards the metencephalon and eventually bunch together to form the acoustic nerve.129

During the fifth and sixth weeks the primordia of the semicircular ducts appear and the cochlear and vestibular ganglion are clearly discernable along with a utricle and sacula.130 The development of the semicircular canals, the cochlea, the organ of Corti all gradually differentiate, as do the bones in the middle ear so that the sense of hearing is at least structurally functional from 20 weeks.131

While neurulation is occurring, the cardiovascular system is gradually developing out of the mesoderm. By 21 days small capillaries begin to appear, and the arrival of the first heart beat, although irregular and weak, occurs at 23 days.132 During intra-uterine life, the circulatory system passes through two stages, the first called the vitelline, in which the embryo is living essentially on its own resources, lasts until the beginning of 5th week.

The second stage, called the placental, lasts from the 5th week until birth. With the development of the placenta and umbilical cord, the embryo/fetus depends upon his mother for nutrients.133 This umbilical/placental exchange is just that, allowing the embryo/fetus to "exchange" C02, water, urea, hormones and waste products for oxygen, water electrolytes, protein and lipid carbohydrates, vitamins and antibodies. But the exchange is also dangerous because the placental barrier also allows the passage of various drugs and almost all viruses.134

128Tuchmann-DupIessis, David & Haegel, Illustrated Human Embryology. Nervous System and Endoprine Glands, 106.

129ibid., 109.

130ibid., 108.

131David Chamberlaln, Consciousness at Birth: A Review of the Empirical Evidence (San Diego: Chamberlain Communications, 1983), 8.

132Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:5.

133H. Tuchmann-Duplessis, G. David & P. Haegel, Illustrated Human Embryology. Organogenesis, Vol. 2, trans. Lucille S. Hurdley (New York: Springer Verlag, 1971), 108-109.

134Tuchmann-Duplessis, David & Haegel, Illustrated Human Embryology: Embryology, 79.


The heart, originally a "cardiac tube", gradually differentiates so that by the 49th day, a 4-cavity heart is functional.135 A recognizable liver is apparent at 28 days, with distinct "liver cells" evident one week earlier. The lung buds are evident by the 27th day and the windpipe starts several days later.136 By the end of the first month, the embryo has a mouth cavity, a primitive kidney, and the beginnings of a stomach,137 along with a discernible pancreas and intestines, but it will be well into the second month before an anal opening develops.138

During the beginning of the second month the nose begins to develop. The process of ossification begins and the trachea, as well as the eustatian tubes, thyroid, parathyroid and thymus glands all develop.139 In the fifth week, the jaws form, giving the face a characteristic "human" shape and the arms and legs begin to show up as buds protruding from the trunk of the body.140

At this point the umbilical cord is the only component of the embryo that is "connected" to the placenta, giving the developing embryo a distinctness. Apart from appearances, the embryo is a "quite well-organized being, and already less vulnerable to outside influences like disease, drugs, and radiation."141 But the emerging infant remains profoundly dependant and while "less vulnerable" to these effects, still vulnerable. This vulnerability points to the interactive nature of early intra-uterine life, where the embryo is not only effected by his host, but the mother is profoundly effected by her child.142

135ibid., 89.

136Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:5.

137Howard V. Meredith, Human Body Growth in the First Ten Years of Life (Columbia, S.C.: The State Printing Company, 1978), 3.

138Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:5.

139Meredith, Human Body Growth in the First Ten Years of Life, 3.

140Tuchmann-Duplessis, David & Haegel, Illustrated Human Embryology: Organonenesis, 6-7.

141Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:5.

142Moss writes, "Embryology appears at first sight to be the study of an unfolding saga, the prompters and organizers of which seem to be largely under genetic control. However, as study progresses, it becomes clear that the embryo is very sensitive to the environment around it. . . . [We] recognize that a hard and fast distinction between genetic and environmental influences is not a helpful object to pursue. Rather, we attune ourselves to the possibilities of the interaction between the two. We may not at this stage fully understand the mechanisms, but we do not close our minds to the idea that individual circumstances shape a person from the earliest stages." (ibid., 4:7.)


The second month brings development in the parts of the brain that will deal with movement, intellect and smell. Indeed, by the sixth week the musculo-skeletal system is developed to the point where the embryo may start to move.143 By the seventh week the "temporary kidneys are already helping get rid of waste substances, and will soon be replaced by permanent kidneys."144

The embryonic period typically concludes at the end of the eighth week and the fetal period begins. This division is somewhat arbitrary because there is no clearly distinct delineation in the activity or development of the emerging child to allow for the division. The same is true with the somewhat arbitrary notions of trimesters, each generally defined as encompassing approximately three months.

While Moss states that traditionally the first was a period of development, the second of growth with the third understood to be a period when life outside the womb is possible, this too is somewhat misleading. Growth and development are taking place throughout all three "trimesters" and infants as young as 5 months, clearly within the second trimester, have survived outside the womb.145

The mere fact that at the conclusion of the embryonic period most of the major systems of the brain and body are present which would be necessary for some kind of rudimentary embryonic "consciousnesstm is not synonymous with their function. As Chamberlain writes:

It is difficult to identify the precise function of the 'separate' parts [of the brain] since parts are closely interrelated and under conditions not fully understood take over for each other.146

Lake's claim that the "interrelated" of the morphological structure during the embryological period allows for a prenatal "psychology" of sorts will be evaluated in chapter 5. However, it is important to note that Lake's emphasis and use of the terminology of "first trimester" in practice tended to correspond with the embryonic period. For instance, Moss writes that he tended to stop the first trimester 'fantasy journey' at about the stage when umbilical circulation was clearly established. Strictly speaking, this is probably a good deal before the end of the third month."147

143ibid., 4:5.

144ibid., 4:5-4:6.

145Chamberlain, Consciousness at Birth, 2.

146ibid., 4.

147Moss, "In the Beginning," 4:6.

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