What's It Like in the Womb?
What's it Like in the Womb?
Finding the Edge
When Kurt and Cathy Meyer of Fishers, Ind., were expecting their daughter,
who was born almost a year ago, they did everything they could to give Marie a
running start. They read to her. They talked to her. They even researched all
the different prenatal stimulation products on the market.
They settled on BabyPlus, a "cardiac curriculum" developed by
Seattle developmental psychologist Brent Logan. The 16-tape series of audio
tapes deliver sonic patterns to stimulate the fetus' nervous system and
exercise its developing brain.
"We were looking for every possible competitive edge for our child,"
says Kurt Meyer. "From a parent's perspective, if you deprive your child of
any opportunity to learn, you haven't done your job."
It's hard to prove the effect BabyPlus had on Marie. But the couple is
convinced the prenatal stimulation allowed her to sleep better after birth and
reach developmental milestones, like saying words and understanding when others
spoke to her, faster.
"We have a lady who watches her three days a week, a mother of two who
watches three other children about the same age as Marie, and almost a week
doesn't go by when she hasn't told us that Marie is doing something, where the
other kids aren't quite there yet," says Meyer, who owns a commercial real
The BabyPlus system consists of a belt with two tiny speakers fastened onto
the mother's abdomen for two one-hour periods per day over 16 weeks in the
second trimester. The series of tapes features an imitation of the mother's
heartbeat, only the rhythms get progressively more complicated and faster with
each tape. The cost of the system is $180.
"Since we knew the mother's blood pulse is serving as the fetus' most
elementary instruction, why not create a more intelligent heart, an
orchestrated heart, that would be able to provide successive progressions of
schooling?" Logan says.
He says stimulating additional brain connections early is particularly
important since a significant portion of brain cells naturally die off in the
later stage of pregnancy. "Like exercising a muscle, by getting the fetal
brain to oscillate faster at more mature rhythms, you're able to lock into
place a more mature brain," he says.
But Fifer and other experts say there's no scientific data supporting these
claims and worry that fiddling with this timing by amplifying sound with
speakers or headphones into the womb could be disruptive to your baby's sleep
patterns, and even harmful. For most of the pregnancy, your baby sleeps about
95 percent of the time, even as you feel it moving or hiccupping.
He also worries the stimuli could confound the timing of brain development
established through years of evolution. "The message is that it's not a
good thing to lose these extra brain cells, when in fact that's how nature
programs things ... to make room for the connections and wiring that turn a
brain into a mind," says Fifer.