Natal Psychology

Dr. Wendy McCord - Ph.D, LMFT

From Conception to Birth:
Pre and Perinatal Psychology

This is a philosophy of psychology that has grown up over the last twenty years. And it is the view of psychology to which I am deeply committed. Basically, we believe that the beginning of life is the most important and impressionable. Psychological problems and illness start this early. Therefore, understanding what a baby really needs can form a protection against mental illness and suffering later in life.

Over the years that I have practiced psychotherapy, many of my clients only got real relief from their pain when we worked on these early issues. I came to realize how difficult this was and how few adults would or could ever go this deep into themselves. At this point I began to think in terms of prevention. If parents could better understand what children need, and give it to them at the appropriate time, so much pain and illness could be prevented. That is how the book Earthbabies: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, came about.

For more information on the book, click here.

Below is an interview with Dr. McCord from the August, 2002 edition of Raising Arizona Kids magazine. A Healthy Mind Begins Before Conception

The earlier, the better. That’s the philosophy of one local expert, Wendy McCord, Ph.D., C.M.F.T., of Gilbert. McCord is a psychotherapist in private practice who specializes in “preventive psychology”—the steps that can be taken before conception and during pregnancy to improve a child’s chances of healthy emotional development before and after birth.

Prevention of problems in infancy begins prior to conception, according to McCord. “Children who are truly wanted by their parents are healthier, stronger, happier and smarter.” Kids have the best possible outcome when their births are planned and celebrated, she says.

The experiences of pregnancy and birth shape mother and child forever, according to McCord. It’s essential that mother and child come to terms with negative experiences as early as possible so emotional healing can begin, she insists.

Prenatal and perinatal psychology, a popular movement started some two decades ago, addresses these experiences. McCord believes it has much to offer those faced with birth-related challenges.

These include:

  • Women who’ve experienced difficult pregnancies or labor (due to pain, loss, feelings of ambivalence, etc.) and feel afraid or stressed at the prospect of giving birth again.
  • Babies who have experienced difficult births (due to anesthesia, maternal stress hormones, etc.).
  • Adults who feel an ongoing sense of abandonment or have difficulty forming healthy attachments with a child due to birth-related trauma.

Her advice to prospective or new parents? Deal with your own issues—the emotional impact of pregnancy, your relationship with your own parents, etc.—before undertaking pregnancy and parenting. Hold your baby often. Get professional help if you feel unable to resolve conflicts on your own.

To learn more, visit the website of the Association of Pre— & Perinatal Psychology & Health at www.birthpsychology.com. Or consult the following books, recommended by McCord:

  • Life in the Womb: The Origin of Health and Disease by Peter Nathanielsz, M.D., Ph.D.
  • The Developing Mind: Toward a Neurobiology of Interpersonal Experience by Daniel J. Siegel
  • Mothers, Babies & Health in Later Life, 2nd ed., by D.J.P. Barker
  • The Mind of Your Newborn Baby, 3rd ed., by birth psychology pioneer David B. Chamberlain.

To skeptics who question whether a child’s experiences in the womb significantly impact life outside of it, McCord offers the following thought: “Even if all I’ve said is wrong, what harm would it do to be more aware when it comes to conception, pregnancy and childbirth?”