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.
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