Silent birth, sometimes known as quiet birth, is a birthing procedure advised by L. Ron Hubbard and advocated by Scientologists in which "everyone attending the birth should refrain from spoken words as much as possible" and where "... chatty doctors and nurses, shouts to 'PUSH, PUSH' and loud or laughing remarks to 'encourage' are avoided". According to Scientology doctrine, this is because "any words spoken are recorded in the reactive mind and can have an aberrative effect on the mother and the child." Hubbard believed that breaking the silence during childbirth with words could adversely affect the child later in life. Church members believe that noises, sounds and words while a child is being born can possibly cause trauma, which in turn causes the production of engrams, thus necessitating silent birth. Scientologists believe that it is also a way to assist a newborn in his or her development spiritually.
The concept of silent birth is a mandatory practice in Scientology doctrine. It is based upon the principle that expectant mothers must be provided the utmost care and respect and Hubbard’s words: "Everyone must learn to say nothing within the expectant mother’s hearing using labor and delivery. Particularly during birth, absolute silence must be maintained and the more gentle the delivery, the better.” Silent birth is meant to make the transition to physical separation from the mother less painful for the child. The church does not rule against medication and caesarean section births. There have been no attempts to prove this medically or scientifically and the church does not claim silent birth as a medical approach but a religious and philosophical one.
The efficacy of silent birth has been questioned by a number of doctors and other health care professionals. Patricia Devine, MD, a maternal–fetal medicine specialist who directs the Labor and Delivery Unit at Columbia University Medical Center, said, "There's absolutely no scientific evidence that taking [noise] away at the time of delivery will have any effect on outcome for the baby or mother."
When asked whether there was any medical evidence that indicated that silent birth was beneficial, Damian Alagia, MD, associate clinical professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at George Washington University Medical Center, replied, "It may be in the Scientology literature, but it's not in the scientific literature. In my understanding, L. Ron Hubbard never spent any time in medical school, studying pediatrics or studying neonatal development. To think that a baby born in silence is going to do any better than a baby born, say, listening to Hank Williams is just foolhardy."
Ray and Louise Spiering
In 2004, Scientologists Ray and Louise Spiering went to federal court to argue that Nebraska's mandatory blood test for infants would violate their right to practice the "Silent Birth Method" of their religion. According to the lawsuit "every effort should be made to avoid subjecting the baby to loud sounds, talking, stress or pain during the first seven days of the baby's life ... Because a baby goes through so much pain during the birth process, Scientologists believe that a newborn baby should not be subjected to any further pain or significant sensory experiences."
The "silent birth" became an object of media interest when it was known that outspoken Scientologist actor Tom Cruise, and wife Katie Holmes who converted to Scientology from Roman Catholicism, were expecting a child. Reports that the couple would follow the practice of silent birth were denied, until photos were taken of large placards being delivered to the couple's mansion bearing instructions for the silent birth, such as "Be silent and make all physical movements slow and understandable."
It was often reported in the media during this time that speaking to the infant during the first week of its life was barred by Scientology doctrine as well. A Church spokesperson termed this "a total fabrication." The Church of Scientology International writes, "L. Ron Hubbard never wrote that parents should not speak to their child for seven days following birth." The same website also says "[t]he idea of silent birth is based on L. Ron Hubbard’s research into the mind and spirit. He found that words spoken during moments of pain and unconsciousness can have adverse effects on an individual later in life." The website also says "[m]others naturally want to give their baby the best possible start in life and thus keep the birth as quiet as possible."
- Church of Scientology (2006). "Scientology Newsroom". Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2006-08-07.
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- Shaw, Gina (2006). "Doctors Sound Off About TomKat 'Silent Birth' Plan". WebMD. Archived from the original on 2007-12-30. Retrieved 2006-05-01.
- Cooper, Todd (21 December 2004). "Blood test for newborns faces religious challenge". Omaha World-Herald. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
- Reuters (2006). "Giddy romance leading Holmes to silent birth: Scientologists believe baby can remember traumatic experiences". Retrieved 2006-05-01.
- MSNBC (2006). "Silent Scientology birth for Tom and Katie?: Group's birth principles call for no music or talking during labor". Retrieved 2006-05-07.
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- "Scientology Silent Birth: 'It's A Natural Thing'". An interview with Rev. John Carmichael from the Church of Scientology. Beliefnet.
- "'What is Silent Birth?'". Article by Thorsten Overgaard, father to twins delivered by Silent Birth.