What's It Like in the Womb?
What's it Like in the Womb?
"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
Look Who's Listening
Your baby's hearing is intact by the third trimester, when sonograms show
that a fetus will actually turn its head to respond to a sound. But studies
have shown that your unborn child can hear sounds as early as 20 weeks and will
be startled by loud noises at about 25 weeks. Very loud sounds can cause
changes in your baby's heart rate and movements, and sometimes even cause them
to empty their bladders.
Instead of the womb being the quiet place scientists once assumed, it is
actually awash in sounds, particularly the whooshing of your blood and
digestive system, the thumping of your heart and your voice, which sounds
louder than it would transmitted through the air since it reverberates through
the bones and fluids in your body.
Noises from outside your body are more muffled but they also make it through
surprisingly clearly, says Robert Abrams, a fetal physiologist in the
department of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Florida. Low frequency
sounds, such as those above middle C, tend to be more audible than higher
frequency ones. Men's voices, for instance, come through clearer than women's,
and music also is easily recognizable.
It appears the fetus can even hear specific speech patterns and intonations,
although probably not recognize words themselves, Fifer says. Some studies have
shown that babies after birth will recognize -- and be comforted by -- a story
read repeatedly to them while in the womb or even by particular songs, like the
theme from a television show watched regularly during pregnancy.