Of Human Seed

A reader kindly sent me a digitized copy of Of Human Seed, a fascinating short film from the early 1960s about prenatal abdominal decompression (YouTube video embedded below).

It was filmed at the Obstetrics Unit of University College Hospital London by arrangement with its Director, Professor W. C. W. Nixon, CBE (1903 – 1966).

The film is undated, but since O. S. Heyns D.Sc. first published his research into abdominal decompression in 1959 (Abdominal Decompression in the First Stage of Labor, BJOG Volume 66 Issue 2, April 1959), and Professor Nixon died in 1966, we can fairly safely date this film to the early sixties.

The black-and-white footage runs just under 16 minutes in length, and includes some footage of actual childbirth — but there’s nothing too gruesome or alarming in it (I’m pretty squeamish about seeing medical procedures, but I didn’t have any issues watching it).

Perhaps more shocking to contemporary audiences is the language of the period — the narrator uses terms that are generally considered pejorative today, such as “spastics” and “the mentally retarded.” It’s important to understand the historical context of their use.

The first 5 minutes or so are a general introduction to human fertilization and gestation, and some of the problems that can occur if the foetus does not receive an adequate oxygen supply. Decompression therapy, and its potential benefits, are introduced around the 5 min 40 second mark:

There are some credits at the end of the film, as follows:

Filmed at University College Hospital, London, by special arrangement and by kind permission of Professor W.C.W. Nixon

Introduced by Antony Roberts

Directed by Bill Taylor

Produced by Robert Brandon-Kirby

Done at Last!

I finally got around to completing a task that had been on my To Do list for literally years last night — digitizing and uploading a PDF copy of Decompression Babies (PDF, 4.73 MB) to the site!


This is the book by David M. Rorvik and O. S. Heyns that attempted to promote the benefits of prenatal abdominal decompression to the World beyond the medical community back in 1973.

It’s a fairly short and easy read, heavy on anecdotal arguments and somewhat light on hard science, but it provides a fascinating insight into the future of childbirth as seen from the past!

O.S. Heyns was the South African Obstetrician who discovered the benefits of prenatal abdominal decompression back in the 1950’s, and subsequently spent more than a decade practicing and promoting the technique.

David M. Rorvik is an American and former reporter for Time magazine, who went on to write a number of often-controversial books about the future of human reproduction.

Email from S, 12 June 2012

My two daughters (b. 1965 & 1969) were decompression babies, and my experiences with them were very positive; my impression was that use of the unit was efficacious. Just googled abdominal decompression since I’ve heard nothing about it for many years. Was curious if it’s still in use. I found the recent articles that conclude it’s not useful, but was a tad confused by the end points they use … Didn’t seem to reflect the original claims exactly.

By the way, the unit was developed before the mid- or late sixties; probably the late fifties. A classmate of mine living in Johannesburg in the early sixties went to the clinic in about 1963 or 1964, used the unit for her first pregnancy, and brought two back to Canada, one of which I subsequently used.

I’d be glad to give you a summary of my experiences, if you’re still interested … Partly a gong show! But otherwise a positive experience and outcome. By the way, I was a young OR nurse at the time of my daughter’s births, and subsequently did a couple of degrees and worked in clinical research, so have a working knowledge of reading clinical trial reports and findings.

I’ve book-marked your website & will get back to you if you want an account of my experiences.

Cheers. S.

Email from HT, 9 February 2012

Dear “Decompression Baby”,

I stumbled upon your website when looking for info on abdominal decompression. Believe it or not, in my country (Slovenia), they still regularly perform decompression and actually advise every healthy pregnant woman to undertake 5-10 treatments. The expenses are covered by the public health insurance. I am pregnant myself now (in the 7th month) and within 4 weeks I can start going for the treatments. If you are still interested, I can keep you updated and in a few months share with you my birthing experience.

Best wishes,

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Email from RD, 5 February 2012

My name is Dr. RD. I am a perinatal specialist and have been studying decompression babies for the last 20 plus years. There is a new revolution happening right now in the area of decompression therapy and I hope to reintroduce decompression therapy using the new upgraded technology for pregnancy and birth.

I am completing my book, “T_”, due out in print May of 2012. If you would like to connect, I would love to hear from you.

All the best,

Email from CN, 16 January 2012

Hi there

My name is C_.

I am also a decompression baby.

I was born in South Africa, but live in the USA now.
I am thinking about falling pregnant, and was interested to see if there was anyone here doing Decompression in pregnancy, I found your site through my search.

My mother swears by it, and I think it made a difference 🙂

Do you know of anyone that still does it?


Email from IS, 5 December 2011

I noticed your blog about the abdominal decompression method. I am the mother of two kids, and I used this method both times. I am from Slovenija, and in our country they are still using this method. Every pregnant woman from her 30th week of pregnancy can go up to 10 times.

It is said to be good for the circulation of blood, so it is good for the baby, and I have to admit it was perfect feeling for me too.

Email from DL, 2 August 2011

While not a decompression baby, I came across a lot of info in an exhaustive effort some 20 years ago, including a few very long conversations with the wife of the doc who wrote the intro to Rorvik’s book… Great to know your interest. I will share some other notes another time. A vastly neglected technique in my opinion.

Email from KW, 4 April 2011

Read your blog with interest, as I too am one of the experimental children, as well as my younger brother!

It’s a pity no conclusive analysis of results was compiled, as it would indeed make for interesting reading, particularly if one happens to be one of the lab-rats!  My Mother, myself, and my younger brother all have sleeping difficulties, and it would be interesting to know if this was one of the side effects of the procedure?

I would be very interested to hear if you have uncovered any further information!

Email from JD (Decompression Baby & MD), 10 November 2010

As far as the research literature goes, there’s not much out there.  Obstetrics is infamous for having little to no scientifically valid research in humans since people are understandably queazy about participating in clinical studies during pregnancy and delivery.  And parturition in other animals models such as rodents, dogs, rabbits, etc. is physically different enough that the details don’t carry over to humans very well.  When I was in my Ob/Gyn rotation in med school, I asked some Obs just to get their opinion and the general feeling was that there was probably not much contribution from the decompression.  One Ob conceded that maybe in difficult deliveries where there was risk of prolonged hypoxia, theoretically there could be benefits to decompression.  I think that without an actual rigorous study, we are left with speculation and anecdotal evidence.