Since 1962 16 Countries 1.546 Members
International Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynecology

Congress Report ISPOG and Three Countries Conference Vienna

Mechthild Neises, Barbara Maier and Vivian Pramataroff-Hamburger

This congress took place in a new dimension, i.e. both on-site and online, as a two-track hybrid event and also bilingual: German for the contributions of the 3 German-speaking societies and English for the contributions of the world societies.

Special impressions of the 4th three-country conference of the German and Austrian societies and the Swiss Working Group for Psychosomatic Gynaecology and Obstetrics remain in our memories. This joint congress already has a 12-year tradition and now took place for the fourth time in 2022. The parallel congress of the International Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology, ISPOG, took place for the 20th time and was also the Society’s 60th so-called diamond jubilee.

There were about 250 registered participants from 20 nations and five continents. 15 nations were involved in the preparation of the 20th ISPOG Congress through the International Scientific Committee. Scientific societies in this field have existed for decades in Sweden, England, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary, France, Spain, Israel, Korea, Japan, Argentina and the USA. Their members come from different disciplines and professional groups, especially gynaecology and obstetrics, psychiatry, psychology, nursing, midwifery and from the field of health promotion.

The congress was opened by Peter Hacker, City Councillor for Health, who addressed the important health policy challenges for Vienna, a city of 2 million. After his greeting message, which was a first women’s policy highlight, there was immediately another: the keynote speech by Heidi Kastner, Austria’s best-known forensic psychiatrist, who recently published a book on stupidity. Stupidity in the pandemic, which according to Kastner is much more dangerous than weapons, even more so when it is expressed arrogantly and is not open to correction, has brought us a crisis that has already lasted two and a half years. Heidi Kastner gave us scientifically in-depth insights into concepts of stupidity and its practical impact on all our lives.

Our hope that we could call the congress post Pandemic World had already been disappointed in the run-up. It was a great challenge to compensate for the many absences due to SARS-CoV-2 infections, quarantine, or having to stand in for colleagues who were ill or in quarantine.

The organizers wanted the congress to be a forum for cooperation, knowledge transfer and exchange of experiences – after the drastic experiences we have had worldwide with the corona pandemic – according to the motto: Pandemic World – Woman, Family, Society. In the German-language title there is the play on words “Pandemic World”, panic world.

This was the bracket for the scientific contributions on psychosomatic gynecology and obstetrics. In total, more than 100 scientific presentations were given, in the form of keynote lectures, symposia and short lectures, with varying reference to psychosomatic aspects in women’s lives, sexuality and sexual disorders, adolescence, menopause, pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium, mother-child bonding disorders, reproductive medicine, chronic lower abdominal pain, infectious diseases, transcultural aspects, traumatic experiences, consequences of migration and general content of psychosomatic research and further education. Many contributions referred to the psychological well-being of women in the pandemic, its influence on their relationship life, its potential for resilience and personal growth, the tightrope walk between distance and closeness and the consequences for the shaping of relationships in everyday practice and clinic life. A wide range was covered from evidence-based medicine, psychodynamic understanding of illness, medical, psychological and social work approaches as well as the influences of spirituality and culture on psychosomatics. Psychosomatics was thus presented not only in its scientific dimension, but also as an attitude understood in a multidimensional way.

The contributions on the pandemic deserve special mention: for example, the main presentations for Session 1 dealt with the topic of sexuality, pregnancy and birth in times of Corona and specifically with love, sexuality and everyday life of women’s lives in a state of emergency, presented by Kristina Hametner, the Women’s Health Officer of the City of Vienna. She gave us insights and perspectives on how we can best meet these challenges. Ulrike Kadi, psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, spoke about an old and new order of touch, the phenomenon of skin and its special meaning in times of social distancing. Mirijam Hall, a doctor from the Ottakring Clinic, reported on pregnancy, birth and the puerperium in the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. She presented figures, data, facts, challenges and implications for pregnant women, women giving birth and young mothers, as well as the experiences of the caring team. In the group on the experience of violence in the delivery room, which was led by senior physician Susanne Hölbfer and assistant physician Maria Kastanek, both from the Ottakring Clinic, there were many exciting things that the two as well as the participants contributed – insights and suggestions on how to deal with women in labour without violence, but also between the professional groups.

Another main session dealt with the transgenerational processing of traumatic experiences – with crisis management between burden and ease. Philipp Kuwert from Stralsund described the psychosocial consequences of sexualised war violence. A war is not over when it is over. Experiences made in wars continue to have an effect, not only on those who have made them themselves, but also in the next generations, which Katharina Drexler from Cologne showed very touchingly in her contribution Trauma Therapy with the Introject – Healing Inherited Wounds. Petra Arck from Hamburg gave insights into her biopsychosocial/psychoneuroimmunological research work on the transgenerational processing of traumatic experiences.

In Workshop 4 on Secondary Traumatisation of Birth Attendants, both medical birth attendants and midwives were present in large numbers and complemented the presented study on Secondary Traumatisation of Birth Attendants, which had been conducted among Austrian and German birth attendants, as well as among Austrian midwives, with their own contributions and experiences as well as suggestions for improved care of second victims. The workshop was organised by Barbara Maier together with graduate engineer Heidrun Lechner, who is writing a master’s thesis on this topic at Sigmund Freund University.

The 3rd main session on the topic of Social Distancing – yesterday – today – what’s next? was organised by the Swiss Working Group with the focus on:
Walking the tightrope between distance and closeness – dealing with Corona in everyday clinical life in Switzerland. Sibil Tschdin (Basel), Relationships in times of pandemic – the potential of crisis for resilience and personal growth by Paqualina Perrig-Chiello (Bern) and the psychological state of women in the pandemic presented by Anki Ging (Bern).

In the English-language section of the congress, Main Session 1 dealt with the (Post) Pandemic World: The Impact on Women’s Mental Health during times of Pandemic presented by Mechthild Neises-Rudolf from Germany and the Transfer of Knowledge (fakes and facts) with regard to covid-positive pregnancies and deliveries and the impact on delivering women and staff by Barbara Maier from Austria, Ottakring Clinic. Ulrike Ehlert from Switzerland spoke on stress and resilience in a (post) pandemic world and brought in psychobiological considerations.

Other contributions in Symposium 1 dealt with research in the field of psychosomatic obstetrics and gynaecology, led by Sibil Tschudin. Symposium 2 focused on LGBT and family, with contributions from Chul-Min Lee on transgenders, Dov Feldberg on fertility perservation in transgender men and women, and Felicitas Falck on pregnancy and childbirth as transgender in Sweden. Workshop 1 by Jose Ramon Anderica Herrero from Spain dealt with Communicating bad news in Obstetrics, to name just a few speakers.

A special focus in international cooperation was dedicated to Symposium 3 “Education and improving psychosomatic POG worldwide”. The need for at least one common guideline for POG is great, as the discussion at the Education Symposium during the International Congress in Vienna 12-16 July 2022 showed. The invited speakers, delegates from 20 countries doing scientific research in the field of POG, had a lively discussion about the importance of education in POG in their countries. Although it is up to each individual country at which institutional level POG should be taught, a common guideline could be a great support in organising the curriculum worldwide.

Mainsessions 2, 3 and 4 had an obstetric focus. On Pregnancy and Childbirth, German and Dutch speakers gave talks on peripartum mental disorders and enhancement of mother-child bonding, among others. Mainsession 3 focused on trauma and childbirth, with contributions from the Netherlands (Marielle van Pampus), Switzerland (Antje Horsch) and Austria (Katharina Leitner-Dziubas). Mainsession 4 was related to Covid 19 in pregnancy, and the US-American women were represented with their focus on telehealth. The exchange was lively, stimulating and made us want more. It became clear how irreplaceable meeting in presence is.

All societies were able to hold their general meetings. In the elections to the ISPOG Board, Mechthild Neises-Rudolf was confirmed as President for a term of 3 years, Vivian Pramataroff-Hamburger in the office of Treasurer DE and Caroline Voss as Secretary General NL. Leroy Edozin moved to the position of Past-President GB, from which Sibil Tschudin CH resigned. In the election of a new President Elect, Chulmin Lee from Korea joined the Board.

All societies expressed their gratitude to the management of Sigmund Freud University. This aesthetically very appealing venue had been provided with a technically high level of equipment.
No congress without a social programme and all the more so in the tradition-rich metropolis of Vienna. A social highlight was the reception in the historic City Hall of Vienna by Kristina Hametner, the Women’s Health Commissioner of the City of Vienna.

The social evening in the old Viennese Hotel Stefanie allowed a happy get-together of members of the 3 German speaking countries as well as ISPOG with participants from 28 countries of the Global North and Global South. It was a wonderful evening.

These shared experiences lead to new events and projects:

  • an English-language book publication requested by Springer-Publisher,
  • the next German-language congress of the DGPFG in Hamburg, 19-20 May 2023 with an ISPOG symposium and the annual ExCo meeting (invitation to follow) and
  • the international congress of ISPOG in Seoul, Korea 03-05 April 2025.

ISPOG statement on the suicide of our Austrian colleage

Dr Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a young Austrian physician, was a well-known champion of the COVID-19 vaccine. For over 7 months, she received hate-filled letters from those opposed to Covid vaccines and measures taken by the government to contain the pandemic. Anti-vaccination activists and coronavirus pandemic conspiracy theorists threatened to enter her premises, and torture and kill her and her staff. She suffered cyber-bullying. Reacting to the threats, she spent over €100,000 on security measures at her practice. Dr Kellermayr cried out for help, but the response of the political establishment and the police was nil or inadequate. Faced with continuing threats, debts and depression, she committed suicide.

The International Society of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology (ISPOG) sympathizes with Dr. Kellermayr’s family and professional colleagues and calls on governmental and non-governmental establishments to address the growing menace of hate and intolerance in modern society. Underlying this menace are mental health issues which, if left unaddressed, lead to various types of victim abuse, rape and violent crime. Professional bodies should take a lead in pressing for society to address what is becoming a ‘hate pandemic’.

This sad story underscores the importance of paying more attention of the physical and mental wellbeing of health care providers. Across the world, health care providers are confronted with verbal and physical threats and actual abuse. Other work pressures lead to burnout. We worry so much about the mental health of patients but not enough about that of care providers. A new paradigm is called for; one that incorporates the wellbeing of both care-giver and care-recipient.

With this statement we share the view of the Austrian Society for Psychosomatic Gynaecology and Obstetrics.

Welcome text by the new President, Mechthild Neises Rudolf

The beginning was a very emotional moment, the handing over of the it-piece – the gavel – with its long tradition of successful presidencies. I would like to take this opportunity to express my special thanks to Leroy Edozien, who handed over the insignia to me. Since October 2019, he has led ISPOG through times of pandemic, with all its limitations and restrictions with calm prudence, always seeking balance and compromise. These qualities have shaped the cooperation on the Board and impressed me – so it was a chance to get to know ISPOG from the inside during the three years as President-elect. It has been confirmed that I fit into this society, which represents the issues that have been close to my heart since the 1980s. The work of the newly elected or confirmed Board continues, with the new President Elect Chulmin Lee the fascinating task of bringing continents and their people together until the highlight in 2025, the planned ISPOG Congress in Seoul, Korea.

The impressions of the 20th ISPOG Congress in Vienna are still lingering. This conference was a successful attempt to bring together two traditions: the three-country conference (Austria, Germany, Switzerland) which brings together their national societies of psychosomatic gynaecology and obstetrics every three years in this cooperation and the special one in 2022 in combination with the ISPOG congress. I would like to thank in particular the German Society, DGPFG and its President Dr Wolf Lütje for their reliable and goal-oriented cooperation and also for assuming financial responsibility, as well as Mr Hellfried Böhme for the organisation in the preparatory phase and on site in Vienna, and all this in a language that many of us only learned in our school days – thank you for this effort. I would like to thank the three German-speaking congress presidents, this thanks goes to Univ.-Prof. DDr. Barbara Maier, Austria, Professor Martina Rauchfuß, Germany and Dr. Dorothea Hefti, Switzerland. All of them have contributed very interesting topics and speakers and thus contributed to the success of our joint congress, and we owe Barbara Maier the contact to the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna, a very special location, modern and perfectly equipped technically. For ISPOG, the basis of success is that all members in the Executive Committee and individual researchers were committed to the high quality of the contributions – so we had a lively exchange with enriching encounters with about 250 participants from 22 nations. At this point I can also say that the ISPOG family members were happy to be able to meet each other again in presence – we do not want to do without this in the future.

All main sessions were recorded, so there is still the possibility to listen to important topics. The Project ISPOG book on the Congress “Pandemic World – Influence on Woman and their families in their societies” as working title.

Part of our congress motto and picture is the story that we started with Nicolina, 12 years old when she submitted the picture. Her picture was chosen for the flyer and the programme, complemented with a little musical congress introduction. We finished with the picture of Hinari Koizumi, 10 years old when she drew it.

Your image unites us in the thought of “One World” and the call for peace has not been so urgent for a long time. Now we, the Board and the Congress team, after a slight post-Congress blues, say goodbye to a well-deserved summer break and wish you all, the Congress visitors and readers of our newsletters, a relaxing summer, with goals as you wish them and much optimism for everything in the future, stay healthy and faithful to us.

50 years of Conferences in Germany

In 2021 the 50th annual conference of the DGPFG, the German Society for Psychosomatic Gynaecology and Obstetrics, the association with the largest number of members in the ISPOG, will take place. An anniversary event was planned in Berlin; that had to be reduced to a 2-day online event due to corona. A small consolation: All DGPFG members have just received the anniversary volume “Traditions and upheavals in psychosomatic gynaecology”, which was prepared for this occasion.

The look back begins in the book at the roots of psychosomatic gynaecology in Germany in the 19th century. The priority is the development of the two psychosomatic-gynaecological associations in divided Germany and the deliberately slow process of unification. Former chairmen and board members from East and West have their contribution, and those from earlier conference proceedings are reprinted, which cover the entire breadth of the discourse.

“50th annual conference of the DGPFG” has to be explained: The first “Psychosomatic training conference for gynaecologists” took place 50 years ago in Giessen, but the DGPFG has only existed under this name for 20 years. It emerged in 2000 from two strong roots: the East Society, founded in 1979 in Magdeburg / GDR (German Democratic Republic) as an interdisciplinary working group for gynaecology and psychotherapy, and the West Society, officially founded in 1980 in Mainz / FRG (Federal Republic Germany) as the German section of the ISPOG.

The two psychosomatic-gynaecological associations that were developing in parallel in East and West Germany had only a limited exchange for years, due to the political reality of the “Iron Curtain”. After the fall of the Wall in 1989, people met with a mixture of curiosity and respect. As shown in detail in the anniversary book, many possibilities for the merger were discussed for a long time until an acceptable solution was found after 10 years: Formal dissolution of both associations and subsequent merger into a new company with a new name and a new logo.

Back to the beginnings: In West Germany, the seminar meetings took place annually, initially in Mainz, from 1982 onwards the multi-day event toured different cities. The structure is characteristic and has been retained to this day because of its success: thematically-centred lecture blocks alternate with work in small groups. The confrontation with gynaecology under National Socialism accompanied the conferences for many years. The interest in psychosomatics was immense: 700 participants were welcomed at the conference in Munich in 1990, and more than 1000 members had joined the association within 10 years.

The nucleus of the East German Association were seven dedicated gynaecologists. The board of directors of the Society for Gynaecology and Obstetrics of the GDR initially did not want to accept this establishment of a new working group “from below”; but it was recognised as an AG by the Society for Medical Psychotherapy. The slowly and steadily growing group was concerned with scientific and practical exchange. A training curriculum for psychosomatic gynaecology was developed early on, and it met with great interest. From 1984 onwards, regular conferences took place at which controversial topics were taken up at an early stage, such as 1992 “Violence in the family.” The tradition of opening the conference with a keynote lecture by a writer, begun in 1984 with the invitation of Christa Wolf, was maintained with great success.

In 2000, the “Unification Conference” took place in Dresden, at which the joint general meeting approved the prepared “merger agreement”. The DGPFG can look back on an eventful history, as I have found time and again when collecting the texts for the anniversary volume. The DGPFG can look back on an eventful history, as I have found time and again when collecting the texts for the anniversary volume. In the meantime, the trend towards psychosomatics subsided somewhat, but we have been welcoming more younger colleagues again in recent years. And we are pleased that interested parties from other professional groups – psychological psychotherapists, midwives, sex therapists, physiotherapists – appreciate the bio-psycho-social approach and take part in our conferences.

In Memoriam Eylard van Hall

Barcelona 26 Aug 1934 – Noordwijk 10 Dec 2020

The year 2020 will be remembered because of the COVID19 pandemic of which we are suffering the third wave now, but for us, the POG family, it will be the year of the farewell to a man to remember, one of the ISPOG founding fathers, our dear Eylard V. Van Hall.

ISPOG would not be what it is without his outstanding participation. I am sure many of us have received his generous leadership, his legacy, his love for life and for our profession.

As a sample I ‘ll summarise my own experience with him, I was born in Argentina and received most of my medical training in Buenos Aires 1969-77. Freud disciples had  emigrated there during the Nazi persecution and penetrated the medical education.

So I had learned to value the importance of psychosocial in Ob Gyn assistance when a cruel dictatorship coupled with economic difficulties, plus the presence of relatives in Alicante made me come to Spain in 1977 in order to learn Ultrasound and obtain the specialist degree.

I felt lonely and “different” from my colleagues, until in 1982 I went to Granada’s Clinical Hospital to meet Prof Vicente Salvatierra who was the only respected and experienced professor in Spain interested in POG. In the library, the sky opened up as I found the first editions of JPOG, my feeling of isolation turned into joy, thanks to Eylard, the Editor of the Journal and President of ISPOG and the colleagues who published the kind of papers I was desperately needing to understand I was not a strange and excentric specialist.

So as soon as I could, in 1985 I went to visit Eylard in Leyden, and new discoveries appeared before me. Eylard was born In Barcelona, lived there until his adolescence, spoke fluent Spanish and was willing to help the foundation of POG Societies in Spain and Argentina, both happened with his presence. In 1986, in Spain, lead by Prof Salvatierra and in 1992 in Argentina, lead by Prof. Carlos Gurucharri, ISPOG president 2000-03.

The door of Eylard´s office had a notice: “When god created man she was only joking” (I only knew male chauvinist Chief professors until then). Eylard had very clear ideas about why ISPOG and the JPOG were needed by Ob Gyn education globally. He had a strong appeal for open-minded colleagues and tremendous ambassadorial skills which guided me so much afterwards.

I recommend you read his thoughts in his own words. (References 1 to 3)

Eylard was always sensitive to art, willing to listen, a warm host successful in making you feel at home, also a very wise adviser. I will never forget my visit to his Dutch home, preparing raw fresh herrings we had bought on the way from the station, well accompanied by a soft Dutch Gin. And his catalán stone house in the Ampurdan where his gifted wife painted, sculpted and taught. 

Dear Maia, please receive our condolences and gratitude.

I was so happy to embrace him (and Manfred Stauber of course) in Berlin at the beginning of my term as ISPOG president. Sadly, this was our last hug.

Goodbye dear Eylard.

Thank you so much for enlightening and leading all of us.

Carlos Damonte Khoury
Alicante, Spain, December 2020


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