Scientologists believe you can harm babies by talking during their birth. Doctors disagree.
Of all the strange beliefs Scientology's faithful hold dear, perhaps one of the strangest is that children should be born silently, with no talking or noise save for the birth mother moaning as she sees fit.
John Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, has had all three of her children silently, and she explained why on Wednesday's Today Show:
[Scientology founder] L. Ron Hubbard found that the single source of aberration, of psychosomatic illnesses, stress, fears, worry, things like that, have to do with the reactive mind, and in that part of the mind is different words and commands that can come back to affect you later in your life.\n
While we still aren't sure about the validity of this "reactive mind," the main point of the silent birth—it's unhealthy for newborns to be met with screaming, excited adults—seemed to be not wholly irrational. But then we talked to some doctors.
"Really?" said Bruce Hood, director of the University of Bristol's Cognitive Development Center, when told about silent births. "What a strange belief." Dr. Hood said that he doubts a cacophony during childbirth will have any impact on babies, as they're undoubtedly used to cacophony from being in the womb for nine months. "The intrauterine environment is surprisingly noisy," he said.
Andrew Meltzoff, the co-director for for the Institute of Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, agreed. "The baby probably isn’t affected by vocal coaching during the trip down the birth canal because of all the acoustic buffering and all that's physiologically going on," he said. "So I'm not sure there’s a scientific basis or an urgent need for a totally silent birth." Meltzoff added, however: "If it helps the mom or family, it’s probably a perfectly fine for them and their baby."
In other words, with silent birth—as with all religious traditions—if it makes you feel good, do it.