The Limbic Imprint

The Limbic Imprint

By Elena Tonetti

The latest studies in the field of prenatal psychology show a direct correlation between the way we are born and the subconscious behavioral and emotional patterns in our adult lives. This is due to the mechanism called “limbic imprint”. To better understand the term “limbic imprint,” let’s look at the basic structure of the brain. At the tip of the spinal cord there is a segment called the reptilian brain, responsible purely for the physiological functions of the body. Then there is the cortex, usually referred to as “gray matter,” responsible for our mental activity. And then we have the limbic system of the brain, responsible for our emotions and feelings. At birth, the limbic system registers our first experience. We come into this world wide-open to receive love. When we do receive this love as our first primal experience, our nervous system is limbicly imprinted with the undeniable rightness of being. Being held in our mothers loving arms right after being born, feeding from her breast and seeing the great joy in our father’s eyes, provides us with the natural sense of bliss and security; it sets the world as the right place for us to be. If our first impression is anything less than loving, then that “anything” imprints as a valid experience of love. It is immediately coded into our nervous system as our “comfort zone,” acting as a surrogate for the love and nurturing, regardless of how painful it actually is. And in the future we will automatically re-create the conditions that were imprinted at birth and through our early childhood. Research shows that dramatic behavioral disorders in adult life are the result of dramatic births, mechanical interventions and an overdose of anesthesia.

On top of the devastating actual birth experience, the quality of gestation and the routine postpartum care might be the source of trouble: lack of immediate contact with the mother, incubation, premature cutting of the cord, rude handling in the delivery room, circumcision, needles… all these experiences that become instantly wired into our nervous systems as our “comfort zone”. Even if later in life our rational mind/cortex will recognize it as a pattern of “abuse,” the imprinting had happened in a different part of the brain. And limbic system is not strong on logic. According to a study by William Emerson in 1998, 95 percent of births in the United States are considered traumatic, 50% ranked as “moderate,” and 45% as “severe” trauma. He also noticed that if a baby boy goes through a torturous experience while being born, his limbic imprint (his comfort zone) will, most likely, be to inflict pain. When it is a baby girl, her limbic imprint will, most likely, be guilt and shame. But the main volume of fear based mentality is not gender-oriented. It affects all of us. (For more information go to Of course, our emotional wellbeing depends on the overall quality of the attention we receive from our parents and guardians trough our formative years. It’s not limited to just that first experience. But when born into excruciating labor pains or into the numbness and toxicity of anesthesia, we are limbicly imprinted for suffering. Traumatic birth strips us of our power and impairs our capacity to love, trust and express our true potential. Addictions, pour problem-solving skills, low self-esteem, inability to be responsible, and a host of physical health problems have all been linked to birth trauma. Normally, a woman gives birth the way she herself was born, due to the mechanism of limbic imprint. That’s all her body knows about “how-to” procreate. Unless she consciously alters that memory, she hands down her own birth trauma to her daughter, as she herself received it from her mother. Bloody and violent human history is created by very damaged people. But the simple truth is, it does not have to be this way.


We can make a conscious effort to heal our own birth trauma and embrace the opportunity of creating a masterpiece of our life. We can recognize that however rude the beginning was, we do have a choice as adults to reprogram our limbic imprint and transmute suffering and helplessness during the birth process into the original love and joy of being born on this planet. We can regain our authentic power, clear the pain of our ancestors from our system, and set the stage for our children to step into their lives as peaceful, empowered guardians of the earth. I invite you to envision the possibilities that would open up for humankind if women fully claimed their original capacity that all mammals have – to give birth without trauma. For the full article and schedule of classes see

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