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Pines, D. (1982). The Relevance of Early Psychic Development to Pregnancy and Abortion. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 63:311-319.

(1982). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 63:311-319

The Relevance of Early Psychic Development to Pregnancy and Abortion

Dinora Pines


The developmental phase of pregnancy and motherhood is described and discussed, with particular emphasis on a woman's lifelong task of separation-individuation from her mother. A little girl's wish to have a child in identification with her mother is described. The emotional development and fate of this wish affects and is affected by the vicissitudes of physiological maturation.

First pregnancy affords a young woman two further stages of emotional identification. With the omnipotent life-giving pre-oedipal mother, now based on a biological foundation and also with the foetus, as if she were her own child. Where the mother has been 'good enough', this is a pleasurable developmental phase, in which further maturation and growth of the self may be achieved.

For other women the inevitable regression occasioned by pregnancy and motherhood may be a frightening experience, if the body has been used to avoid split-off and painful states of mind. Primitive anxieties and conflicts based on the experience of being mothered may be reactivated. A distinction is drawn between the wish to become pregnant and the wish to become mother to a live child.

The analysis of a patient, who repeatedly allowed herself to become pregnant but aborted the pregnancy each time will illustrate this theme. Transferencecountertransference problems encountered in her analysis with a woman analyst reflected the difficult relationship to her own mother, in which the infantile aspects had not been successfully resolved and integrated in her adult self.

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