What Is a Silent Birth?
Silent birth, sometimes known as quiet birth, is not a technique but a practice (advocated by Scientologists) to keep the environment around the mother while giving birth as calm as possible. Usually doctors and nurses around shout or make laughing remarks to encourage the woman in labor. This is avoided in a silent birth. It is believed that the reactive part of our mind records the perceptions during adverse conditions like pain and unconsciousness and can lead to nightmares, psycosomatic illness and fears later in life.
Silent birth is a birthing procedure advised by L. Ron Hubbard and advocated by Scientologists in which “everyone attending the birth should refrain from spoken words as much as possible” and where “… chatty doctors and nurses, shouts to ‘PUSH, PUSH’ and loud or laughing remarks to ‘encourage’ are avoided”.
According to Scientology doctrine, this is because “any words spoken are recorded in the reactive mind and can have an aberrative effect on the mother and the child.” Hubbard believed that breaking the silence during childbirth with words could adversely affect the child later in life. Church members believe that noises, sounds and words while a child is being born can possibly cause trauma, which in turn causes the production of engrams, thus necessitating silent birth. Scientologists believe that it is also a way to assist a newborn in his or her development spiritually.
The concept of silent birth is a mandatory practice in Scientology doctrine. It is based upon the principle that expectant mothers must be provided the utmost care and respect and Hubbard’s words: “Everyone must learn to say nothing within the expectant mothers hearing using labor and delivery.
Particularly during birth, absolute silence must be maintained and the more gentle the delivery, the better.” Silent birth is meant to make the transition to physical separation from the mother less painful for the child. The church does not rule against medication and caesarean section births. There have been no attempts to prove this medically or scientifically and the church does not claim silent birth as a medical approach but a religious and philosophical one.
The efficacy of silent birth has been questioned by a number of doctors and other health care professionals. Patricia Devine, MD, a maternal–fetal medicine specialist who directs the Labor and Delivery Unit at Columbia University Medical Center, said, “There’s absolutely no scientific evidence that taking [noise] away at the time of delivery will have any effect on outcome for the baby or mother.”
When asked whether there was any medical evidence that indicated that silent birth was beneficial, Damian Alagia, MD, associate clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center, replied, “It may be in the Scientology literature, but it’s not in the scientific literature. In my understanding, L. Ron Hubbard never spent any time in medical school, studying pediatrics or studying neonatal development. To think that a baby born in silence is going to do any better than a baby born, say, listening to Hank Williams is just foolhardy.”
If you keep up with reports of celeb births, you’ve probably heard of silent birth. Katie Holmes, wife of Tom Cruise, reportedly aimed for a silent birth when she gave birth to their daughter, Suri. Kelly Preston did one too. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t make any noise. According to the Church of Scientology International, which is a big proponent of silent birth, “The point of silent birth is no words. It does not mean a mother cannot make any sound during childbirth. It is doubtful that any woman could give birth without making any noise at all.”
While there’s no scientific evidence to support the idea that silent birth preserves the baby’s psyche, it’s long been known that women labor most effectively in calm, supportive environments. And contrary to popular belief, a silent (or mostly silent) birth is possible (even if you’re not a Scientologist!). “I’ve seen patients who are able to handle their labors very well and have a very peaceful and placid environment throughout their labor and delivery,” Dr. Nageotte says. “I have no knowledge that silent birth has any benefit to the fetus, but I don’t think there’s any harm in it for anyone. I think it’s probably pretty nice.”