Language learning in the womb . . . and stress during pregnancy

We were excited to read this September 27 article by Dr. Gail Gross in the Huffington Post. The opening line could have come straight from the archives of The Reading Womb . . .

Did you know that babies learn in the womb, and also that stress can affect their development?

InteractingThe article goes on to touch upon several studies that have demonstrated that babies hear, remember, and even begin to understand speech sounds heard in utero. “This,” says Dr. Gross, “is the foundation for language.” She includes a charming description of all the ways babies in the womb have been found to react to noise, such as “kicking, moving and even dancing around,” that would fascinate any expectant parent.

Aren’t you eager to read to your baby-to-be, knowing the kind of interaction you’re actually having with her?

We love finding out about all the new research being carried out in recent years to discover just what, when, and how babies begin to learn in the womb. And we were especially gratified to see that Dr. Gross linked these findings with those of a recent study showing the detrimental effects that a pregnant mother’s stress can have on her baby in utero.

RelaxingIf you haven’t already, please check out our August 2011 post, The Pregnant Pause, in which we talk about how important it is to relax and enjoy the moment during your pregnancy. We mentioned a German study that found that stress hormones produced in the mother are passed on to her baby. Dr. Gross in the Huffington Post refers to a more recent British study that discussed how such hormones can impair fetal cognitive development. But on the positive side, the hormones and endorphins produced by a relaxed and peaceful mother have a remarkably soothing effect on her baby.

What better way to take some regular time to slow things down and really be with your expected baby than to read to her? You’ll foster all kinds of health benefits for both of you—and at the same time, begin to familiarize her with your voice and the speech sounds of your native language(s). And it’s so easy! Please check out our pointers in the original post, and also our accompanying Pregnant Pause podcast episode, devoted entirely to guiding expectant mothers as they take time to slow down and cherish these moments when their baby is so close.

SingingWho knows? If you sing nursery rhymes
to your baby in the womb, you might
even make her dance!

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