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Medicine: Births

2 minute read

In Columbus, Ohio, last month Mrs. Leonard Loomis, 21, was about to have a baby. Her obstetrician, Dr. Abe Herbert Kanter, took Mrs. Loomis’ left hand, held it palm down over her head while he softly intoned: “You are going to sleep now. You are so tired, so very, very tired. Just relax. Your arms and legs are relaxing. They are so heavy. Just relax, relax. You are so sleepy, so sleepy, so very, very sleepy. . . . When I count three you will be asleep. . . . One, two, three.”

Six and a half hours later when Mrs. Loomis awoke from her hypnotic sleep, a strapping 10½-lb. girl was whimpering beside her. The baby had been born after only 15 minutes of final exertion by Mrs. Loomis.

Last week news of this unusual, but by no means rare, use of hypnotism as an aid in childbirth reached the world at large, brought Dr. Kanter, 32, more public attention than a decade of orthodox obstetrics could have earned him.

Said Dr. John Howell Janeway Upham, dean of Ohio State University College of Medicine, president-elect of the American Medical Association: “It is an exceptional case which has no bearing on the future of childbearing or on the method of child delivery.” Said Dr. Morris Fishbein, publicist of the A. M. A.: “Hypnotism has been used repeatedly for many years in an endeavor to alleviate the pains of childbirth, but has not been found successful except in the case of hysterical individuals who have been repeatedly hypnotized and are therefore especially amenable to the power of suggestion.” Dr. Kanter: “I have been hypnotizing people for about six months.” Last year in North Carolina a baby was born in a well into which its mother had fallen (TIME, Nov. 4). Last week in The West Virginia Medical Journal, Dr. William Price Bittinger of Summerlee, W. Va., reported another birth no less extraordinary.

Late last month a 21-year-old West Virginia mother, who had had two previous children, unknowingly bore her third while easing herself over a slop jar. Her husband unwittingly emptied the jar into the backhouse. There, 40 minutes later, Dr. Bittinger found an 8-lb. boy, coldand quiet but still alive. Commented Dr. Bittinger: “If this baby survives, it will have a fine history, especially if it runs for President of the U. S.”

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