What's It Like in the Womb?
What's it Like in the Womb?
Jesse Rapp wasn't born until May, but he and his parents were playing
together long before that.
At night, Morgan often rested his head on Richele's pregnant belly, calling
Jesse by name and feeling him wriggle in response. Sometimes the couple would
play games. They'd gently poke first one side of Richele's abdomen, then the
other, and watch as Jesse followed their touch by poking the same side back.
They even teased him by poking the same side twice and laughed as he poked the
"wrong" side back.
All their prenatal shenanigans paid off. In the recovery room, it seemed
abundantly clear Jesse recognized his parents right away, turning his head in
their direction when either one spoke. When he cried, he'd calm down instantly
at the sound of their voices.
"It was so exciting because there was this trust and communication and a
certain sense of bonding between us right away," says Morgan Rapp. "And
for him, I think, it was reassuring because he had a sense already of where he
Thanks to ultrasound and other high-tech tools allowing a peek inside the
womb, scientists have discovered a virtual sensory playground in which your
baby is living. The fetus responds to your voice and other sounds in the room,
reacts to light and dark shadows as you move from place to place, tumbles as
you switch positions, even tastes sweet or spicy foods you've just eaten.
Experts believe these experiences cause physiological changes in your fetus'
sensory systems that are necessary for normal brain growth. But the question
is: Is more better?
There's already an array of tapes and gadgets on the market that help
parents talk, sing or pipe classical music into the womb via little speakers on
the uterus. One researcher has even developed a "curriculum" designed
to speak to the fetus and supposedly boost intelligence, coordination and
Don't feel pressured to pull out the credit card just yet.
Most researchers studying fetal development say Mother Nature and the
stimuli your baby naturally receives in the womb from your everyday
conversations and activities are good enough to prepare your baby for the
outside world. Study of how the human brain develops still is in its infancy,
but there's no convincing scientific evidence that deliberate fetal acoustic
stimulation, as it's called, influences intelligence, creativity or later
"Nature does a pretty good job of programming or presenting the
necessary kinds of stimulation that a fetus should get at the appropriate times
during development," says William Fifer, a developmental psychobiologist at
Columbia University. In fact, experts worry that sticking speakers or
headphones up to your abdomen could actually disrupt your baby's sleep patterns
or the natural order of growth.
If there's any benefit to spending time talking to your baby or letting your
favorite music filter naturally through the uterine wall, it's as much for the
parents as for the baby, they say. "I think most of the purpose of talking
to your baby is to give people a chance to sort of attach, to get used to the
fact that this new creature is going to be a big part of your life," says