Shivakumar Belavadi, PPNE, Bangalore, India

TOPIC – Identify and describe characteristics of non-traumatized newborns and shock affects of newborns, based on the reading in Module 9,


Birth is a process. The baby in the womb makes its moves and orchestrates its own birth. This process is natural. However, there are many situations when the birth could become stressful, traumatic, shocking or overwhelming for a baby. Vaginal births (with or without forceps, vacuuming etc.) are still the norm.  While C Sections are on the rise, its consequences on the baby and mother in inducing trauma are being better understood and appreciated by prenatal and perinatal practitioners today.

Stress and Trauma during birth

In the process of birth, there seems to be a certain amount of inbuilt difficulty.

For instance, it is obvious that the head (and the body) of the child is much bigger and wider than the passage through which it has to exit out of the mother. After the head gets fixed, the baby has to negotiate through the pelvic bone structure. The hard structure does cause a degree compression on the baby’s head and body.

While, the process looks difficult, this is just the way it should be in the order of nature. It is now well known and understood that such difficulty is essential for the baby to be fit and compatible to enter this world. Difficulties prepare a baby for the life after the womb. Hence some amount of stress is inevitable for the baby – and of course the mother. Other causes or intervening situations may aggravate ‘normal’ levels of stress to the level of trauma and shock! The situation is well summarised in the words of Ray Castellino that “It is an understatement to say that birth, at best, is hard work for the babies.

Ray also clarifies that “Most babies find their passage into physical life much more challenging. In fact, I believe the greater percentage of all babies experience some degree of shock in their birth process”. It must be noted that eminent psychologists and PPN practitioners estimate that more than 85 to 95 percent of the babies experience some degree of prenatal and birth shock and trauma.  This clearly shows that the ‘normal’ is not really normal any more, if nearly 100% of the population is affected !  It is a humongous crisis and an epidemic! It also indicative of  the level of ignorance and lack of awareness in society on prenatal and perinatal realities.

Causes and Consequences of Stress and Trauma

Causes could be many, starting from the physical characteristics of the mother and baby. Situations arise, as when the baby is in the canal for too long. The reason why such a thing could happen in the first place, be it inadequate knowledge or lifestyles of mother and father is beyond the scope of this essay. 

It is also well known that along with parental behaviour, attitudes and actions, the root cause also lies in Obstetrical and Medical practices and conduct. They are trapped in the mould of making birth a medical procedure with no genuine care or feelings put into the practices – largely driven by habits of medical professionals and technology.

But what all of them have contributed to, is the high rate of shock and trauma at birth. We have made human birth a misery for the child !

The consequences are catastrophic. Shock and Trauma imprint upon the baby’s body and mind, often deeply. An impact on the body will cause an imprint on the mind as well, and vice-versa. Impacts of trauma at birth cause stress responses to occur and reactive patterns are mapped out into the baby. Unless the trauma imprints are resolved, they carry the potential to manifest at any time during later and may even get reinforced. Individuation gets impaired and disharmony is manifested in life. This is probably the root cause of widespread violence and distress seen in individuals, homes and society

However, as Ray states – “The severity of impacts, however is directly related to the degree of overwhelm, the extent to which a baby’s system experiences shock and the ability of the individual to recover.”

 Characteristics of Non Traumatized and Shock Affect Newborns

Ray Castellino, a pioneer of Somatotropic Therapy, has put together a detailed list of characteristics observed in Non-traumatized and Shock Affect babies.  I have indicated the corresponding in relation to shock affect babies as listed by him. A brief description is also given for some of them.

Gross Characteristic 


In Non Traumatized Babies

In Shock Affect Babies

1. Eyes are clear and present

Glossy eyes

“Eyes are the index of the mind and soul.” They show the feelings and perceptions within and also demonstrate the emotional states of a baby. In non-traumatized births, the baby’s eyes are clear when open. It is in the present time dimension. In case of shock affects, it is glossy, indicating the lack of clarity within.

2. Eyes coordinate normal convergence

Eyes do not converge normally, but cross or split

In continuation of the above, both eyes of a non-traumatized baby converge to focus and are coordinated.  However that focus is missing in shock affect babies and the baby is cross eyed or has split eyes

3. Ability to orient to visual, auditory and tactile stimuli

Total or partial inability to orient to visual, auditory and tactile stimuli

Sensorial orientation in non-traumatized babies is much better coordinated and balanced. Hence, when there is a stimulus like sound, touch or light, the baby responds fully by orienting itself to the stimulus and hence responding appropriately. This is totally or partially impaired in shock affect babies.

4. Ability to smoothly move from one sensory stimuli to another without breaks in movement continuity

In non-traumatized births, when stimuli are sequenced the baby is able to easily transition from the first to the next. There are no breaks or awkward stops in the baby’s movement.

5. General balanced tonicity throughout the body

Generalized or body area specific hypotonicity

In non-traumatized births , the body tone in a baby is balanced – as supple as it should be in a baby, without any indications of hypotonicity. In shock affect babies, hypotonicity is generally observed in the whole body or it may be seen in specific body areas.

6. Appropriate homeostatic autonomic responses  to stimuli

Involuntary changes in autonomic responses including pulse, respiratory rate, skin color changes, pupil changes in the eye

In non-traumatized births, autonomic body responses are appropriate and synchronized. For instance, with increased activity the pulse rate and respiration increases. In shock affect babies,   involuntary changes occur in the course of autonomic responses. Again for instance, the pulse rate may change randomly without adequate cause-effect connection.

7. Moro or startle response is present with clear and present danger only

Moro response or startle response to sound or movement

Moro behaviour of opening out arms, closing it and crying are visible when a baby senses a physical fall. Startle is when a baby is startled by an unexpected sound or other stimulus. Non traumatized babies show this ONLY when there is clear and present danger. Traumatized babies could do this in response to even normal sound or movement.

8. Movements of the extremities are smooth and without breaks in continuity

Jerking movements of extremities

Movement of various body parts or whole body movements in non- traumatised babies is smooth and rhythmic. In contrast, shock affect babies movements are jerky and non-synchronized.

9. Smooth trunk movements of the body in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation movements at will

As above

10. Accurate proprioception

Proprioception is the ability to orient or know where one is in space. Spatial orientation of whole body or parts of the body are in full play with non-traumatized babies. It is not fully or partially demonstrated by shock affected babies.

11. Strong sucking response

Birth Trauma may severely impair the sucking response in shock affect babies.

12. Holds head up and turns head from side to side to orient at will

Inability to hold head up

As observed in the self attachment process, non-traumatized babies have the ability to lift the head and show ‘bobbing movement of the head’ virtually at the start of life on birth. A baby’s ability to hold the head up is impaired in the case of shock affect babies.

13. Balanced cervical and sub-occipital muscle tone

Hypermobility of neck, especially at occipital-atlantal junction

Atlanto occipital joint is in the area between the skull and the neck. The muscle tone and movements here are balanced in case of non-traumatized babies.  Shock affect babies may have hypermobility here .

14. Absence of shaking or tremors

Involuntary shaking or tremors

Impaired nervous system responses are caused by traumatized births. Tremors and shaking may hence become involuntary in these cases.

15. Deliberate response to near or direct touch

Tactile sensitivity to near or direct touch

Response to touch is clear and purposeful in non-traumatized babies. The shock affect babies tend to be over-sensitive to near or direct touch.

16. Matches gentle tactile pressure with extremities, head or trunk of body

Total or partial inability to match gentle pressure from direct touch with extremities, head or trunk of body

This is again a situation of impaired body movement and lack of coordination between body parts in the case of shock affect babies.

17. Crying corresponds to need

A. Frequent crying without apparent reason

B. Crying inconsolably, getting lost in their emotions without ability to make visual, auditory or tactile contact

‘Babies do not do anything without a purpose.’ Crying is amongst the first tools deployed by them to communicate. In non-traumatized babies, the communication and purpose are linked and proportional, in the act of crying. With shock affect babies this is impaired and becomes disproportional or for unknown causes (probably in recalling birth trauma).

18. Able to cry with full range of sounds and emotional content

A. High pitched crying sounds

B. Weak, hollow or empty crying sounds

To serve its purpose, crying behaviour in sound and emotions has a range. This is in balance and full display with non-traumatized babies. Shock affect babies cry is weak or high pitched, both indicating helplessness and disharmony.

19. Able to differentiate emotional expressions

Emotions are prime displays in human behaviour. They may range from joy to anger to disgust. In case of non-traumatized babies, the full range is in use.

20. Enjoys experimenting with movements, sounds and expressions

With time, it is normal for babies to move, respond to sound and take the human journey forward.  This is easily facilitated in non-traumatized babies.

21. Body positions and movement patterns do not interrupt ability to orient

A baby’s body is supple and flexible. Hence its ability to orient is very high. This is easily facilitated in non-traumatized babies.

22. Vibrant skin color

Lack of skin color

Apart from muscle tone, the skin colour of non-traumatized babies is vibrant and glowing. Shock affect babies have dull skin tones.

23. Chooses to make contact deliberately

A non-traumatized baby is well coordinated in mind, body and spirit.  Hence the baby chooses deliberately to serve its intent !

24. Voluntarily moves attention from inside to outside

Inability to voluntarily shuttle attention from inside to outside or outside to inside

Being close to the inner spirit, a non-traumatized baby radiates from within to the outside. This ability is not balanced in shock affected babies and hence their attention is not coordinated.

25. Shows interest in new experience

Total or partial absence of alertness during awake states

Non-traumatized babies live their lives and show interest when awake. They also sleep better. But traumatized babies are disoriented have less or no alertness.

26. Voluntarily grasps

Inability to grasp

Gross and fine Motor skills develop better in non-traumatized babies

27. Moves to mom’s breast, latches on and feeds

Self-attachment (to breast feed) is much more visible in non-traumatized babies. Shock affect babies have difficulty in doing this.


Withdrawal sleep to light, sound or movement sensory stimulation

Traumatized babies are internally disturbed. Any external stimulus of light, sound, movement causes sleep withdrawal. The babies are over-sensitive.

Ray Castellino has also listed out the Subtle energetic, fluid tide and cranial characteristics observed in non-traumatized and shock affect newborns. The same are listed below with some comments and description.

Subtle Energetic, Fluid Tide And Cranial Characteristics

Description / Comments

In Non Traumatized Babies

In Shock Affect Birth

1. Full palpable energy field with distinct clear boundaries

Weak energy field without clear boundaries

A baby is a “Body-Mind-Emotion-Energy Being.” Energy is what makes all of the visible( body) and non-visible parts( mind, emotions, feelings etc.)  of the baby. Energy has clear spatial dimension which is perceivable by trained persons. Energy tends to be strong and properly spaced in non-traumatized babies.

2. Free flow of vital energy throughout the body

Erratic energy field patterns

Energy flow is smooth, freely flowing and in organised patterns in the case of non-traumatized babies. With traumatized babies it would be erratic.

3. Round, full cranium, absence of cranial molding

Unresolved cranial molding

The effect of trauma is visible in the way the Cranium (head) is moulded. In non-traumatized babies, it would be round and full.

4. Full strong potency of vital fluid tides

Weak potency within vital fluid tide

Ray states that “Fluid tides are a range of very slow expanding and contracting rhythms that support all living things.”

5. Full fluid tide inspiration and expiration patterns with appropriate physiologic reciprocity

A. Total or partial inability of fluid tide potency to build

B. Stops in the fluid tide patterns

Fluid tide rhythms are in cycles. According to Ray , they are arranged as “Longitudinal Tides” in 6 second cycles, “Potency tides” in 20 second cycles and “Long Tides” in 2 ½ minute cycles. They develop sequentially. These patterns do not fully develop in the case of traumatized birth babies. 

6. Easy expansion and contraction of the cranial field within normal physiologic movement patterns

A. Cranial strain patterns

B. Non-physiologic cranial movement patterns

The Cranium (head) is subjected to the highest pressure as it finally passes out of the birth canal. It can distort the physical and energy dimensions of the cranium if the birth is traumatic.

7.Able to meet stress with appropriate energetic fluid responses, lateral fluctuations, and still points

Long weak still points

According to Ray – “A still point is a restful pause in the fluid tide that can last several seconds to several minutes. During still points, the strength, the resource or the potency in the fluid tide builds.” In non-traumatized babies, the still points are appropriately energised.  In the case of traumatized birth, babies have long weak still points.


Counter clockwise umbilical pattern

Depending upon the direction of the course of the blood vessels placed within it, an umbilical cord is referred to as clockwise or anticlockwise. Counter clockwise umbilical cord pattern may be observed in shock affect babies. 


Unresolved postural patterns

The Energy complex in shock affect babies is not fully developed and is not in harmony. Hence, postures of these babies show disharmony and discord.

In conclusion, it is obvious that the knowledge and awareness of pre and perinatal sciences has to spread. This will go a long way to make birth a joyful and purposeful process for a baby and take misery out of it.

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