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Biofeedback ContraPregnancy Training

Another way to empower women
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About 1/6 of pregnancies naturally miscarry. Some women become upset when that happens; others become relieved.

Many years ago I read about some stories/cases where (in each case) a woman became pregnant through trickery by some man she despised afterward. In these cases the women became very angry and created a very unusual mind-set for themselves. They positively *refused* "to carry that man's offspring". And, after maintaining that attitude for some weeks, they miscarried.

Now, I don't know whether the mind-sets and miscarriages were truly "causal" or, actually, "coincidental" --that is, the miscarriages might have happened anyway, regardless.

But I do know that the notion of "mind over body" is a verified and well-studied and even-getting-formalized thing. For example, video games have been created for children suffering various diseases, and in those games the patients are encouraged to visualize their immune systems destroying invading organisms --and those children tend to get well faster than the ones who don't play the games.

The general realm of such studies/work is known as "biofeedback" --I notice the HalfBakery, as I write this, doesn't seem to have a category for it.

Around the world it has been noticed that wherever women are empowered in various ways, they generally choose to have fewer children. For example, in Brazil women were allowed free sterilizations, and literally millions accepted the offer. In the USA the birth rate began to drop about the time women were granted some Constitutional decision-making rights (voting). In other countries inexpensive contraceptives have been the primary empowering factor.

So, this Idea starts with assuming the stories I read were true, and that women can be trained, per biofeedback techniques, to miscarry unwanted pregnancies. There are several advantages for women.

First is that it will cost less than other methods of terminating an unwanted pregnancy.

Second is that it is literally an empowerment method for any woman. No man will be able to *make* her give birth!

Third, regardless of whether or not some Law exists that forbids abortion, there will be *no*way* to be certain that any given miscarriage occurred for the normal natural reasons, or occurred because the woman used her Free Will to *refuse* to carry some undeserving man's offspring.

Take *that*, misogynist control freaks of the world! May your despicable genes *never* be successfully passed on!

Vernon, May 07 2012

Murphy's Law and Human Reproduction http://vernonnemitz...aw-131braj0vi27a-6/
As mentioned in a couple annotations. The cultural focus on *assuming* that any given pregnancy will successfully be carried to term is just plain unrealistic, and therefore stupid. [Vernon, May 08 2012]


       It would be interesting to get some evidence on whether unwanted pregnancies miscarry more often than wanted ones. My guess is that they don't, to any significant extent, once you exclude surreptitious physical interventions. If there is a genuine excess of miscarriages in unwanted pregnancies, my guess would be that they are due more to stress than to "empowerment".
MaxwellBuchanan, May 07 2012

       I bunned this for the sheer fact of mind over matter...anything can be possible.
xandram, May 07 2012

       hmmm, not sure about the 'wanting' to miscarry working, but focussing intently enough on terror, basically inducing panic attacks, would cause physiological stress enough for a woman's body to abort a pergnancy I think.   

       That would suck.
Once you start tinkering around there, it tinkers back.

       [2 fries], you are talking about the wrong mind-set. The main text specifies an "attitude of refusal".   

       It is very different from fear, not least because it can actually be a positive attitude, not a negative attitude.
Vernon, May 07 2012

       So, this biofeedback training - how many times do you have to practice it before it works?
MaxwellBuchanan, May 07 2012

       [MaxwellBuchanan], in some respects there is insufficient data to answer your question. If "mind over body" can work to cause a miscarriage, the technical details need to be discovered --most likely involving certain hormones.   

       So, in the absence of a pregnancy, the "feedback" part would include some sort of ability to measure the appropriate hormone levels. The woman would practice conscious control over them, such that *if* she decided that some man wasn't actually worthy as a sperm donor, then she could put-to-use what she learned. OK?
Vernon, May 07 2012

       This idea is a little disturbing. [Vernon], do you realize how mentally and physically traumatic a miscarriage is for a woman, even if the pregnancy is unintentional?   

       Even though I believe in what you are calling "mind over body" (I more than believe in it, I practice it), there are certain things a human being is 'hardwired' to do--or not do. Even if a woman could voluntarily miscarry using biofeedback techniques, the mental and emotional conditioning required to perform an action so inimical to human existence could cause tragic, long-term damage to her personality. Even the decision to artificially abort a pregnancy is a very difficult and trying one, much less this.
Alterother, May 07 2012

       [Alterother], men may be the stronger sex, but women are the tougher sex. Most of the problems you cite are directly related to cultural brainwashing. I suggest you Google for [ "Human Reproduction and Murphy's Law" ], and read the first thing that is listed, just to see what I'm talking about (and suggestions for becoming less affected by that cultural brainwashing).
Vernon, May 07 2012

       Having some significant experience with miscarriage (of wanted children), the majority of ours were due to simple nonviability.
RayfordSteele, May 08 2012

       "Cultural brainwashing" is what makes miscarriage a traumatic event for a woman?   

       Am I the only person who thinks that statement is more than a little bit ludicrous?   

       Oh, and your essay has expired or something. And you can't cite yourself in support of your own argument, [Vern]. It's against the law.
Alterother, May 08 2012

       [RayfordSteele], "simple nonviability" fits under "Murphy's Law" quite precisely. "*Anything* that can go wrong, will" --at least sometimes.   

       [Alterother], Google's "cache" worked just fine earlier today. However, I've been aware for some time that the original posting would be deleted (Google decided it didn't want to deal with "Knols" any more), and, when an offer was made to copy it to another site, I accepted. I'll add a link to the copied post.   

       As for "citing myself", this is the HalfBakery, remember? Not to mention that cultures normally don't want their default brainwashing to be exposed, which means you would have a difficult time finding somewhere else the information I was describing!
Vernon, May 08 2012

       I'm dubious.
Alterother, May 08 2012

       I would guess that the mother's mental state makes no difference at all. The "selfish gene" argument is that your genes are pretty much immortal and your body is merely a vessel to carry them to the next generation and so any characteristic which stands in the way of this will get removed. This makes sense if you think about how this pregnancy-rejection trait would get selected for in evolution - it would most likely get removed from the gene pool as any trait which inhibits genes being passed on to the next generation is less likely to get passed on to the next generation.
hippo, May 08 2012

       [hippo], that's a reasonable argument, but it presumes that Free Will can't exist. And, actually, it can. Look up "quantum foam", if you don't already know what it is. Biological structures exist that are fine enough to be influenced by the Total Randomness that exists in the quantum foam.   

       Evolution, over millions of years, could find ways to use that source of random information (e.g., a rabbit that can jump truly randomly has a better chance of evading a predator than a rabbit that moves pseudorandomly). Free Will means being able to do something randomly, *outside* the Law of Cause and Effect.   

       Since Free Will exists outside of "causality", it logically follows that it also exists outside of any mere "tendencies" associated with the "selfish gene" system. Yes, we could think that the genetic system might destroy Free Will as a way of preventing human organisms from restricting quantities of offspring, but so far there is no significant evidence for any such trend.   

       Anyway, the premise of this Idea is that the stories I read about all those years ago are True, such that an appropriate application of Free Will *can* cause a miscarriage. So, this Idea is Half-Baked simply because more evidence is needed, on that subject.
Vernon, May 08 2012

       //it presumes that Free Will can't exist.//   

       You're missing Hippo's point. The existence of free will is neither here nor there (I have free will, and would like to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I have repeatedly failed to do so).   

       It's a question of whether evolution would preserve a set of genes that could terminate a pregnancy at will.   

       It's not impossible (some other species can terminate or arrest pregnancies in response to environmental conditions - though not by sheer effort of will); I just think it's unlikely and there's little evidence for it.   

       As I mentioned, I suspect that stress will tend to cause miscarriages, but that is very different from suggesting that they can be caused on demand by sheer effort of will.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 08 2012

       //Since Free Will exists outside of "causality", it logically follows that it also exists outside of any mere "tendencies" associated with the "selfish gene" system// - as [Max] points out, this statement is irrelevant. Consider two populations of people. Population A has the ability to terminate pregnancies in response to stress, dislike of being pregnant, or even free will. Population B has no such ability. All other things being equal(*) population A's size will decline relative to that of population B. Ultimately population B will be dominant and population A's genes will be lost.

(* i.e. unless the genes which give rise to this trait also confer some advantage - such as the genes which make people susceptible to sickle-cell anaemia and which also give some immunity to malaria)
hippo, May 08 2012

       It would have the evolutionary advantage of allowing women to only carry the offspring of chosen males, taking rape out of the equation.   

       I assume you mean taking the _product_ of rape out of the question. Impregnation of the victim is rarely the motive of rape.
Alterother, May 08 2012

       [MaxwellBuchanan], and [hippo], I did understand the original argument. I was also arguing about how Free Will fits into it --if the genetics that allows Free Will to exist wasn't passed on, then Free Will wouldn't be there, to do things like cause a miscarriage.   

       But it is too useful in other ways, for that to have any great chance of happening across the human species. OK, so now you are focusing on the "mechanism" by which a Free Will might go about causing a miscarriage. It follows that that mechanism also has a basis somewhere in genetics, and it could theoretically be removed without removing the overall usefulness of Free Will.   

       Well, if the stories described in the main text are true, then that mechanism *does* exist in at least some women. And this Idea would at the very least allow us to discover how widespread that mechanism is, in the overall population.   

       Any woman who doesn't have the appropriate in-between mechanism is still able to use her Free Will to terminate a pregnancy by other means. Therefore, as long as abortion is legal, I don't see how there could be any sort of "selection" to remove only the bio-mechanism that stands between Free Will and miscarriages.
Vernon, May 08 2012

       //product of rape// Yes, of course. Not that a child of rape has less merit than a love child but if there is a genetic predisposition towards rape and abuse then this would weed some of it out of the pool.   

       If there were any scientific evidence found to support this theory, anti-abortionists would use it as "proof" that women who have abortions don't really want to. After all, if they truly didn't want to have the baby, it would have spontaneously miscarried and an abortion would be unnecessary.   

       Are you /sure/ you want to pursue this line of metaphysical inquiry?
ytk, May 08 2012

       //Some cultures resorted to cannabilism of their young in hard times.//   

       Which cultures? I find this rather difficult to believe.
ytk, May 08 2012

       // "Cultural brainwashing" is what makes miscarriage a traumatic event for a woman? //   

       The reaction of an individual to a life event is very much a product of social conditioning and attitudes.   

       What is "normal" is merely a social construct - a consensus.   

       Leaving aside the psychoactive effects of hormonal changes, which are substantial, dramatic, and highly significant, the perception of a miscarriage is going to be viewed through the distorting mirror of the reaction of the peer group of the individual.   

       If your society is sufficiently weird, distorted and detached from reality. even voting Democrat can become almost acceptable ...
8th of 7, May 08 2012

       [bigsleep]: Hmm. I remain skeptical. All of the sources I can find on this seem to all indicate "yes, it happened", but I can't find any explanation of how we reliably know it happened, nor any concrete evidence that the historical accounts are accurate. There is at least one contemporary account of the famine I can find, but there's reason to believe that the reports of child cannibalism—or at the very least the widespread practice of such—are merely a literary device to evoke the horrors of famine.   

       I can accept that there may have been isolated cases of cannibalism of one's own children, but I have a hard time believing it was ever generally done anywhere. Maybe it's just my own sensibility that refuses to accept it as a possibility.   

       On the other hand... Maybe roasted, with a nice rosemary au jus (or perhaps that's a Rosemary au jus)...
ytk, May 08 2012

       [ytk], don't confuse "didn't want to be pregnant" with "actively refusing to stay pregnant". The first is negative and the second is positive.   

       Some years ago I studied a book on "self hypnosis", which made some rather intriguing claims. For one, it stated that the subconscious mind doesn't properly understand "no". That means that if you consciously focus on "I don't want to be pregnant", the subconscious only understands "I want to be pregnant". This could interfere with success, right?   

       So, if you consciously focus on a more positive statement, such as "I refuse to stay pregnant!", then this is something the subconscious can understand.   

       It seems to me that while biofeedback techniques are fine by themselves, even more control over the body could be accomplished if you can get your subconscious mind helping.   

       But as I stated previously, more research is needed. One of the things that might be discovered is that some women could be fundamentally unable to manipulate appropriate hormonal levels. Then the argument you proposed becomes invalid, because, as [hippo] pointed out, it wouldn't matter in the least what that woman wanted with respect to having personal control of miscarriage-power. She would have to go to an abortionist if she wanted to prevent a pregnancy from reaching term.
Vernon, May 08 2012

       In my personal experience with biofeedback conditioning, it is much easier to make a change than it is too resist one. I find this doubly significant because I use the techniques primarily to deal with pain, and therefore have been challenged to enhance and embody the parts of myself that are not effected by pain rather than to resist the pain itself.
Alterother, May 08 2012

       I've been dealing with chronic pain since '02. The motorcycle crash was neither the first or the worst time I've been injured in a freak accident.
Alterother, May 08 2012

       You have to be careful with those freaks.
ytk, May 08 2012

       //[ytk], don't confuse "didn't want to be pregnant" with "actively refusing to stay pregnant".//   

       I think having an abortion constitutes "actively refusing to stay pregnant". So, the theory would go, if you get an abortion, you shouldn't have needed an abortion, because if you truly refused to stay pregnant (rather than being coerced into having an abortion against your will by external pressures), then you'd simply miscarry. So, logically, the safest thing to do would be to ban all abortions, since women who truly and honestly refused to stay pregnant wouldn't need them, and anyone who wasn't able to do so didn't really want one in the first place.   

       If you need it, you don't really want it; and if you want it, you don't really need it. So basically, Catch-22 for abortions.
ytk, May 08 2012

       At the risk of starting a flame war on a different tangent: I'm not so sure that "self-limiting genes" are as self-limiting as we imagine. For instance, homosexuality is apparently genetic and seems to be pretty stable at about 2% of the population, worldwide, with another 1% actively bisexual.   

       These numbers have probably been roughly the same for quite some time (except perhaps among attendees at certain British universities) and would indicate that a gradual diminution of the prevalence of homosexuality is not occurring as a result of natural selection against the gene/s responsible.   

       Therefore, I doubt that a rather more subjective measure (willing yourself to spontaneously abort) would result in anything more than a little controversial, anecdotal evidence that would be bandied about by proponents and pooh-poohed by the critical thinkers among us, in much the same fashion fringe religious views are currently held and disseminated.
UnaBubba, May 08 2012

       Remind me to filter any Vernon idea that involves pregnancy from now on. Or time travel. Or physics, or, well, just about anything, really.
RayfordSteele, May 09 2012

       [ytk], I'm unsure why it took so long to review this old Idea, and see that I needed to reply to your last anno. Well, better late than never.   

       Your logic is flawed. Per the definition of "need", any mere "want" is totally irrelevant. Your body needs oxygen whether you want it or not, for example --but most humans will want it if they are deprived of it. (And that's why lots of cigarette smokers --and former smokers-- are now making various pharmaceutical companies, selling treatments for "COPD", rich.)   

       So, don't conflate wants and needs --since there is famously "no accounting for taste", wants can be literally about anything, many of which are freely allowed, many of which are entirely disallowed, and the rest of which lie in a gray area between the two extremes. (Example: in some countries a 16-year-old may be allowed to have a desired vehicular driver's license, but only if certain parental conditions are also met, not just age. And what about wanting, say, to own a yacht? Many who want one simply can't afford one!)   

       Next, the theory you propose, with respect to providing a rationale for banning abortion, presumes that the main concept of the Idea-text here is completely true, even before enough data has been gathered to prove it one way or the other --or even partially; in a previous anno I accepted the possibility that, per [hippo]'s argument, some women simply may not be capable of implementing this Idea, while others might. Even if the logic of your theory was sound (it isn't), you would be applying it too broadly (including those to whom it cannot fairly be applied).   

       Part of the reason your logic is flawed relates to the fact that pregnancy can and does involve the release of certain hormones (progesterone, mostly) that have the effect of cause pregnant women to feel good, regardless of their actual health. This counts as an extra factor, among those that a woman might consciously take into account, when deciding whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. And that hormonal factor can cause a woman to take longer than she otherwise might, to make up her mind.   

       Another factor is sex education. There are cases of women so ignorant about menstrual cycles that they don't know that the cessation of the cycle can be a sign of pregnancy --and such a woman who is overweight can even carry a pregnancy to full term without knowing, until the end, that she was pregnant. Knowledge is Power, and there seems to be a major tendency among the "misogynist control freaks of the world" to keep women as ignorant as possible, for purely selfish purposes.   

       Your argment is flawed because you ridiculously assume that all women instantly decide, upon knowing they are pregnant, whether or not to carry to term.   

       Then there is the evidence (per the anecdotes in the main Idea text) that even if it works, it takes time for Free Will to cause a miscarriage to occur --and very likely that amount of time, like many other things, will vary for different women. If nothing else, some women will feel less strongly than others, possibly because of the afore-mentioned hormonal influences, about the decisions they make, and that alone could be a critical factor, with respect to the outcome.   

       In other words, there can be more than one reason for wanting to cause a miscarriage, but failing to achieve it, while you assume that success, if tried, is guaranteed.   

       The simplest way to look at a medical-abortion procedure is to call it a "backup plan", to be used when all other birth-control methods fail. In most situations most people like having a backup plan available. But in the lone case of birth control, there are apparently many culturally brainwashed people who oppose the existence of a backup plan, and seem to think that just because a potential happens to exist, it MUST be fulfilled, and NOTHING should be allowed to interfere (including perfectly Natural things like fatally defective DNA). Tsk, tsk. Those people should consider their own potential to fall down staircases, breaking their necks, and maybe some of them will change their minds....
Vernon, Jan 23 2013

       Item the first, given that a significant number of pregnancies do spontaneously miscarry, your anecdotal report of women who //positively *refused* "to carry that man's offspring".// is useless because as you yourself indicate, it fails to indicate anything beyond coincidence, and is has a strong inherent confirmation bias since these women were only mentioned after their pregnancies had miscarried.   

       Second, in this instance you somewhat presciently anticipated the general thrust of (thankfully) former Senator Akin's statement and the underlying beliefs, which was very specifically being used as an argument against post rape abortion. So yes, abortion opponents would take this as an excuse to outlaw them.   

       Third, the ideas you read weren't true. I do not doubt that unwanted babies are slightly less likely to be carried to term than desired children, as stress and fear are contributing factors to creating a miscarriage, as would be lower level of pre-natal care likely occurring in such cases.   

       That is not the same, however, as being able to will a pregnancy to end (or even not to start). There are a few species in the animal kingdom that do have that ability, but humans are not one of them.
MechE, Jan 23 2013

       [MechE], I quite clearly indicated that the phenomenon mentioned in the anecdotes needed to be researched.   

       Next, that figure of 1/6 in the main text, about the fraction of natural miscarriages, is actually a bit misleading. It refers to pregnancies that have already been established for about 3 months, I think. If you consider the overall failure rate, between conception and birth, it is MUCH higher (more than 80%, I think). But so many of the failures happen so early in the process (many simply fail to implant successfully in the womb, which event doesn't happen for 4 or 5 days after conception, and marks the actual beginning of pregnancy), that most women never notice those losses.   

       Third, just because you claim the stories I wrote about in the main text weren't true, that doesn't mean you are right. Again, this is exactly why experiments in biofeedback need to be conducted!   

       Finally, you are somewhat mistaken about what human organisms are capable of. Look up "fetal resorption", for example and "vanishing twin". The evidence suggests that the biggest problem that abortion opponents have is simply they think that the special-ness of humanity is something that the Uncaring Physical Universe notices.   

       The fact is, in many cases we ARE special, but not that way! Specially egotistical, yes; specially arrogant, yes; specially blind to unpleasant facts, absolutely! ....
Vernon, Jan 23 2013

       So, this supports the notion that "A woman's body can shut that whole thing down?"
whlanteigne, Jan 24 2013

       Let me clarify, I say they aren't true because a specific hormonal mechanism has been identified in some species, but no evidence of an analogous mechanism has been found in humans.   

       Also, because studies have been done on the rates of pregnancies carried to term after rape vs the general population, and the numbers are similar. Neither proves this specifically, but it is strong evidence against.
MechE, Jan 24 2013

       [whlanteigne], the way something is phrased can greatly affect its meaning. The incidents mentioned in the main text here were about certain women's MINDS possibly causing their bodies to shut down the pregnancy process.   

       Several assumptions, then, must be avoided. Don't assume their bodies would do it automatically. Don't assume all women know their minds have such power. And don't even assume that any woman actually has such power, until reliable supporting evidence for it can be found.   

       [MechE], thanks for the clairification. Nevertheless, it is well known how various hormones can be produced as a consequence of various brain activities (adrenaline, for example, after certain stimuli arrive). The biofeedback experiments needed here would simply see if human brains can also activate the "specific hormonal mechanism" you mentioned.   

       It is possible that the statistics you cite may have overlooked something. Many women don't have to go this Idea's route to end a pregnancy after rape, because the culture generally allows rape-caused pregnancies to be medically aborted. The studies, therefore, would have to focus on women who have no such easy path, and then only compare the outcomes of those who wanted offspring vs those who were in the category of positively refusing to carry the offspring of despised men. (Note that women who merely "didn't want to be pregnant" could be failing to properly involve their subconsciousnesses, as previously mentioned on this page.)   

       What with how various cultures try to dis-empower women, I strongly suspect there aren't enough women in the category specified above for good statistical results; there are only anecdotes.
Vernon, Jan 25 2013


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