It's difficult enough worrying about your own pregnancy, but now apparently you have to worry about the pregnancy of your great-grandmother too! Did she have a horrible delivery? Then you might have her memory that of that birth stored in your DNA, leading to your own horrible birth experience! Sound nutty? Well, it's not to Nicola Graydon, coauthor of The Ancestral Continuum, a book about how the traumatic birth experiences of your ancestors may be stored in your body and memory -- even if you didn't know about them -- which will contribute to your own terrifying delivery experience. Seriously, what next?!
According to Graydon, women can inherit "ancestral memory" that plays a part in how your own birthing experience goes. Example: Sara Bran gave birth to daughters Lily and Mia nine years apart, but in both births, Sara had the inexplicable feeling that something horrible was about to happen. She says:
On both occasions labour stopped when I was exactly four centimeters dilated. Quite simply, I froze with fear and my whole body seemed to go into lockdown. I had to have a traumatic emergency Caesarean section.
Instead of attributing this to, say, having a small birth canal or some other physical issue, Sara believes it's because when her great-grandmother was giving birth, her toddler son's clothing caught fire and he came running into her birthing room in flames. He died three days later. While Sara professes that she knew nothing about incident until she looked into her family history, it's hard to believe that something so bizarre and horrific wouldn't have been whispered about occasionally, and Sara just doesn't remember it except subconsciously.
And while that certainly is a traumatic birth experience -- how exactly does this explain Sara's own difficult births? This stuff isn't exactly backed up by science.
It's quite possible that hearing tales of difficult births can create panic and fear in a woman, which then translates into a painful birth. Maybe moms need to keep their sordid tales of traumatic births to themselves. (Yes, please, ladies, I know you want to vent, but do that.)
Additionally, women who have a fear of childbirth, possibly from hearing stories about all of the horrible births in her family history, can prepare for her fear by working with it. Therapy, meditation, deep breathing, talking with an array of doctors and midwives, reading about different ways of giving birth, and also talking to women who have had good birthing experiences can all help prepare a woman to deal with her fear. Let's face it, birth can be scary for a lot of women, that's natural. It's okay to admit that and do all you can to mentally prepare.
But I'm not quite buying the idea that your DNA remembers the births of your ancestors and rather mischievously decides to haunt your own birth by giving you a difficult one.
Do you believe in ancestral memory?
Image via Jason Pratt/Flickr