When do we begin to learn? Birth? One month? Six months? Kindergarten? School? New studies suggest that some of the most important learning we do starts in the womb. Fetal origins is a reasonably new arena of research and the scientists working in this field are suggesting that that our health and well-being throughout life is strongly influenced by our experiences in the womb.
Not only can newborn babies recognise and favour the sound of their mothers’ voices they can also recognise themes from TV programmes their mothers watched and passages from Dr. Seuss books that their mothers read aloud while pregnant.
Even more astounding is the fact that babies also cry in the accent of their mothers’ language – seriously – French babies cry end on a rising note and German babies on a falling note – mimicking the melodic patterns of these languages. And it isn’t just sounds that babies recognise – they also recognise smells and tastes – meaning they are exposed to the food and smells of their cultures even before they are born.
Studies suggest that everything the pregnant mother experiences is shared in some way by the fetus.
In the autumn of 1944, German troops blockaded western Holland turning away ships carrying the food. The winter was freezing – one of the coldest on record – and food soon began to run out. The Dutch were starving, some people even ate flower bulbs and many people had to survive on 500 calories a day. By the beginning of May the nation’s food reserve was completely depleted and the people were desperate when, luckily, Holland was liberated by the Allies. The Hunger Winter was over but it had killed 10,000 people and weakened many more.
There were 40,000 fetus in utero during the siege in Holland. As a consequence of the lack of food many babies died. But what was not immediately obvious was the effect of the Hunger Winter on the babies who survived. Decades later it was discovered that people whose mothers had lived through this period, had more obesity, more diabetes and more heart disease than the average Dutch person.
This is fascinating research – have a look.
- More Research Shows Unborn Babies Can Learn in the Womb (deaconjohnspace.wordpress.com)
- What babies learn before birth (cnn.com)
- A fetus can sense mom’s psychological state (eurekalert.org)