Can sounds and bumps affect your unborn baby? Exactly how much can your unborn baby see, smell and feel? We’ve got the answers!
Even if we put an ear to someone’s tummy and hear all kinds of noisy gurgles and rumbles, we somehow imagine that a baby in the womb is in some peaceful haven. Far from it! So how do a growing baby’s senses respond to life on the inside?
“Babies start to respond noticeably to sound from about 20 weeks,” says Barbara Kott, of the National Childbirth Trust (NCT). “They’re aware of noises inside the womb – your blood gushing, heart pumping and digestion working – as well as outside, such as music.”
Babies exposed to a soap opera theme tune in the womb reacted to the music two to four days after birth, while a control group made no response, a recent study found.
“Your baby will open her eyes at around 22 weeks,” says Kott. “At this stage her eyesight is still very limited, but she’ll be able to see the bright light of the sun as a warm glow if you strip off to catch the sun.
“Babies have a sense of touch and respond to being stimulated within the uterus from about 17 weeks, but your body is clever and protects your baby from bumps,” says Kott.
“You’ve got the membrane of the uterus itself, which is really strong. It goes from weighing 50g before you’re pregnant to nearly a kilogram by your due date, so the muscle becomes really thick. Plus you’ve got amniotic fluid, which cushions the baby.”
“We don’t know an awful lot about how your unborn baby feels, but as she gets her food and energy at the expense of you, she probably doesn’t feel as tired,” suggests Dr Olwen Wilson, a consultant child psychologist at the Royal Surrey County Hospital.
Your unborn baby’s even more likely to respond if you go for a swim or have a bath. The water gives babies new buoyancy, which some of them respond to.
Barbara Kott, from the National Childbirth Trust
Closer to birth, your baby’s sleep pattern is similar to that of a newborn, with dream sleep (REM – rapid eye movement) developing from around seven months.
Flavours from a your diet are transmitted to your baby while in the womb, a recent report by the Monell Chemical Senses research institute in Philadelphia claims.
Your unborn baby may even get a taste for spicy food, as the study found that pregnant women who drank a lot of carrot juice had children who were keener on carrots than those who hadn’t been given the juice.
"As far as we know, babies only seem to understand being comfortable or uncomfortable. But if there’s any pressure on them, they may respond to that. And if you have a surge of endorphins they may react, just as they might if you’re exercising or stressed and have a big rush of adrenalin. But we don’t know enough about our babies’ experiences to be sure,” says Sue McDonald, of the Royal College of Midwives.
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