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A near-birth experience most commonly refers to a parental encounter which involves some form of intelligent communication with an offspring not yet born, either during the pregnancy or before conception. This experience may reveal the forthcoming child's gender, name, character or similar traits.
Less commonly, the term near-birth experience can refer to one's own recollection of an event which occurred immediately after one's own birth, or during the pregnancy, or even also before conception. Under this usage, the term "near-birth experience" is analogous to the term "near-death experience."
Otto Rank explored birth trauma's importance (Rank, 1929), and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott provided clinical evidence, from regression sessions, on ego observation to its being regressed as far as prenatal life. Later, clinical data from psychedelic drug studies revealed the importance of the birth trauma in human psychology, like ketamine drug which produces rapid regression to perinatal events. Psychiatrist Stanislav Grof, in 1954 researched LSD in Prague, and after 1967 he explored ketamine, and other methods for exhibiting non-ordinary states of consciousness like holotropic breathing. Grof concluded that some near-death experiences are virtual recollection of birth memories, actual re-experiencing of parts of the process in symbolic form, and "movement towards the light tunnel being a memory or symbolic re-experience of being born : a memory of the 'near-birth experience'."
Grinspoon and Bakalar (1981) submitted: "Another lesson from psychedelic experience is the apparent inter-changeability of birth and death in the unconscious..It may be that the fear of dying is in part a projected memory of birth and that what Freud called the death instinct is also related to a desire to return to the womb. If the birth agony is experienced as a death agony, this life is in a sense already life after death, and its beginnings might provide our images of a future life. That would suggest reasons for the visions of tunnels, brilliant white light and godlike (parental) figures in near-death experience. The experience of birth may also be reflected in myths of cyclical death and resurrection...the doctrine of reincarnation may have roots in a deep feeling that the introduction of new life to this world through birth implies death and oblivion for something that went before." (p261).
- Church, Dawson (1998). Communing With the Spirit of Your Unborn Child. Aslan Publishing. ISBN 0-944031-15-3.
- Bongard, Gerald (2000). The Near-Birth Experience: A Journey to the Center of Self. Marlowe & Company. ISBN 1-56924-602-5.
- [Winnicott, 1958; see also the discussion in Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1981, pp256-261]
- lila.info/document, Ketamine - Near Death and Near Birth Experiences Dr Karl Jansen
- Remembering Our Home, Healing Hurts & Receiving Gifts from Conception to Birth by Sheila Fabricant Linn, William Emerson, Dennis Linn, Matthew Linn, Paulist Press, ISBN 0-8091-3901-4
- The Near-Birth Experience. B. Gerald (2000). New York: Marlowe & Co.
- Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Near Death, April 16, 1992. Hawaii University Experience