An unborn baby has many experiences in the womb based on the actions of the mother – the foods she eats, exercises she does, and medications she uses all impact her developing baby. The senses of an unborn baby are also developing and interacting with the environment. There is much research that shows that babies can feel, taste, dream, and react to stimuli such as sound long before birth. So – does this mean your baby can hear? Yes.
An Unborn Baby’s Ears and Hearing
In the first trimester, just around the 8th week, a baby’s ears are forming, and as early as 18 weeks they begin to perceive the sounds of the womb (blood pumping, fluid moving, etc.) as the tiny bones of the inner ear mature and the auditory portion of the brain more fully develops. Research shows that infants recognize their mothers’ voices long before birth and the nuances of pitch and tone that each mother’s voice has, and the unborn child can perhaps grow accustomed to the unique sounds of his or her environment. By about 23 to 24 weeks of gestation a baby can hear sounds outside of the womb. Because of the fluid and tissue that encapsulates the baby the sounds are muffled, but they are nonetheless heard by the growing infant in the womb.
Ultrasound technology has shown that babies in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters respond to sound, turning their heads toward the origin of a noise made outside of the woman’s body such as a door shutting or a loud noise. Scientists and medical professionals have even studied the effects of language on unborn babies and have been learning that infants can discern the natural tendencies of spoken language – such as the difference between tone and inflections when comparing two languages.
Should I Be Reading to My Unborn Baby?
The research as to whether or not unborn babies can hear is fairly clear, but what should expectant moms do about it? Just as babies recognize their mother’s voices before birth, these babies show that they are comforted and soothed by familiar sounds outside of the womb. Doctors tend to agree that reading to a fetus in the womb can be a positive experience for both mother and child.
When an expectant mother sings, listens to music, or reads to her unborn baby it can have a tremendously calming effect. The baby’s heartbeat appears to regulate more easily and the vital signs of the baby can be stronger. A baby’s hearing by the 24th week and forward is developed enough so that the rhythm of spoken words, such as when a mom is reading to her unborn baby, can be heard and processed to some extent by the baby.
A mother who takes the time to read to her unborn baby can also experience positive effects, such as her own “down time” where she is able to relax and enjoy her pregnancy. This can improve her blood pressure and heartbeat (which are best for baby, too), and she can also formulate an even stronger bond with her child. For expectant dads, reading to an unborn child can also be a time of bonding, both with the baby and the mother of the child.
What Should I Read to My Unborn Child?
Babies in the womb aren’t picky about the stories you choose, but will pay more attention to the tone, voice inflections, and rhythm of the language. You can select some favorites you hope to have on your child’s bookshelf at home, read the newspaper, or any other selection that allows you to connect with your baby.
[Featured Image Courtesy of Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]