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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


Freud, a man of his time, believed that pregnancy and birth gratified every woman's basic wish. The gift of a child would partially compensate for the unfulfillable wish for a penis. My analytic experience does not confirm this view. It has led me to believe that there is a marked distinction between the wish to become pregnant and the wish to bring a live child into the world and become a mother. For primitive anxieties and conflicts arising from a woman's lifelong task of separation-individuation from her own mother may be unexpectedly revealed by the emotional experience of first pregnancy and motherhood.

In this paper I shall focus on difficulties concerning a woman's identification with the internal representation of her own mother, an identification that is bodily reinforced when she becomes pregnant. I shall also discuss the revival in pregnancy of infantile fantasies about herself as the intra-uterine foetus in her mother's body which are activated by her narcissistic identification with the foetus now concretely inside her own body. The physically symbiotic state of pregnancy is paralleled by an emotional symbiotic state in the future mother where identifications with her own mother and with herself as the foetus may reactivate intense ambivalent feelings. Pregnancy therefore affords the future mother an opportunity to decide whether to let the foetus live or die. The analysis of a patient who repeatedly allowed herself to become pregnant but aborted the pregnancy each time will illustrate this theme.

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