What's It Like in the Womb?
What's it Like in the Womb?
Get Those Brussels Sprouts Outta Here
Your baby's sense of touch begins to develop early in pregnancy as it
explores the uterine wall, umbilical cord and even its own body parts, spending
the most time touching its face. As early as the ninth week, your baby will
respond when its lips or areas around the mouth are touched. By the eighth
month, it moves towards the source with mouth open, the beginnings of the
rooting reflex, which the baby needs to begin nursing and sucking on a bottle
Smell and taste are often hard to separate, so they're described as
chemosensations. Just try sucking on a Jelly Belly while plugging up your nose,
suggests Julie Mennella, a psychobiologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center
in Philadelphia. From about the fourth month of pregnancy, the fetus is gulping
and inhaling a variety of foods you've eaten through the amniotic fluid, and by
the third trimester, your baby can tell whether it's bitter, sweet, sour or
even garlicky, and will show preferences for certain tastes.
Researchers say that learning about tastes and smells in the womb are
actually preparing your baby for life after birth. Not only are newborns
comforted by their mother's smell, which is likely introduced first through the
amniotic fluid, but they're already familiar in the same way with the taste of
mother's breast milk. Some animal studies even suggest that the more varied a
pregnant mom's diet, the more open the offspring will be to different
Fetuses also begin to develop a sense of balance from their movements in
utero. Not only are they gently tumbling and floating in the amniotic fluid,
but your own movements will cause the baby's position to change. Those
movements stimulate a structure in the ear that helps the brain process
information about motion and body position. By 25 weeks the fetus displays a
righting reflex, which may be responsible for most babies turning head down
This motion also stimulates emotional changes in your baby. You may notice
that your baby is more still when you're very active, and then at night becomes
active when you're still. Once your baby is born, you'll probably find that
when he's fussy, you can quiet him by rocking him, reminiscent of the movements
he experienced in the womb.
Your baby's sight is the last sense to be developed and won't be fine-tuned
until after birth, but growth inside the womb begins early. The eye pockets
form by about five weeks of pregnancy, and by the fourth month, the eyes are
almost completely formed. Your baby's eyelids won't open until the seventh
month, when the fetus will begin opening and closing them and rolling the eyes
around, as if testing them out. A bright light can penetrate the uterus and may
make the fetus more active.