Unborn babies respond positively to their mothers talking to or stroking their ‘baby bumps’, a study has shown.
Researchers from the University of Dundee found that babies opened their mouths much more when their mothers were talking to them and smiled when their mothers stroked their abdomen.
Dr Emese Nagy, lead author of the study, said the results “establish what mothers already know – that their babies are communicating with them before they are born.”
The study, published in the Infant Behaviour and Development journal, recruited twelve mothers between 25 and 33 gestational weeks of pregnancy for high-resolution 4D ultrasound imaging.
The researchers asked the women to try five different types of interaction with their babies, ranging from sitting in silence to interactive talk and touch.
The ultrasound videos found that babies touched their own face and body more than 60 per cent of the time when their mother spoke.
interacting with an unborn baby is not just wishful thinking on the part of the mother
Dr Nagy said: “Although this is a small study, it certainly indicates that interacting with an unborn baby is not just wishful thinking on the part of the mother.”
She continued: “Many mothers feel that they can communicate with their babies in the womb by touching or talking to them, and this study has allowed mothers to see this before their very eyes.”
The findings expand on previous studies that show newborn babies copy their parents’ smiles and hand gestures, and become upset when someone stops speaking to them.
24 week abortions
Earlier this year, an MP called on the Government to require pain relief for all babies undergoing medical procedures in the womb from at least twelve weeks’ gestation – including abortion.
Despite the evidence, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ guidance currently advises medics to tell parents that a baby “does not experience pain” during an abortion prior to 24 weeks’ gestation.
In the UK, abortion is permitted up to 24 weeks for most reasons – but is available up to birth for children deemed to have a disability. This has been used to justify abortion for conditions such as Down’s syndrome and cleft palate.