The little growing bundle of joy inside the mother’s womb is smarter than we imagine. During my pregnancy, I was overwhelmed with happiness and got an array of books, play things and more to engage my growing fetus inside my belly. Evenings were dedicated to hearing soothing music, taking a walk; mornings involved chatting with my little one who was growing steadily and bedtimes included reading a favorite bedtime story (of mine of course!). The baby even moved positions when I tickled him/her for fun. Researchers studying fetal development say that the stimuli received by the fetus in the womb prepares the baby steadily for the outside world. We are also presented with a list of stimuli that a fetus would love to get at the right time during development. While this is happening, using a headphone could definitely impact the growing fetus. Rather talk to you baby, play its favorite music, sing a song or narrate brave stories which would definitely ring a bell in the child’s mind once it comes out.
Though a baby’s hearing skills are intact by third trimester studies show that babies can hear sounds right from the 20th week of pregnancy which is why the pregnant lady is suggested against hearing loud voices. Extreme blaring sound can change the heart rate and movement with some even causing the fetus to empty the bladder. Besides external factors there are plenty other internal factors such as movement of blood, thumping of the heart and your very own voice that could be heard above normal rates. Besides all these, noises from outside though they might sound muffled, can also be clearly conveyed to the fetus inside. Usually, a man’s voice is more clearly heard than a woman’s voice and music is embraced. There are even studies showing that babies after birth feel safest when they hear stories and music that were once audible to them when residing inside the mother’s womb. Such stimulations help the child become more attentive and involved.
Every trimester helps the baby grow a little more and by the second trimester even before the baby’s eyes can see images it can detect light. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that simple cells talk to one another as part of an interconnected network which provides the retina with more light sensitivity than once imagined. It also increases the influence of light on behaviour and brain development in multitudinous ways. As the eyes are developing 3% of ganglion cells (cells in the retina that deliver message through optic nerve to the brain) are sensitive to light. Till date, there are six different subtypes that communicate with various places in the brain. Some tune our internal clocks to the right day-night cycle and some others send signals to that area of the pupil that constrict in bright light. Some others are linked to those areas that regulate mood and the amygdala that regulates emotions. Certain foods too are proposed to elevate mood and for a complete list of them please visit www.firsteatright.com.
Retinal Ganglion Cells
Intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) were discovered more than a decade back. Scientists assumed that mouse, pups and human fetus were blind at the time of development. According to the researchers, the ganglion cells were there in the eye connected to the brain but not much connected to the rest of the retina. But now its been seen that they are connected to each other. The researchers could see that six types of ipRGCs in the newborn mouse link up electrically via gap junctions to form a retinal network that helps not only in detecting light but also responds to the intensity of light.
Fetus can detect light changes and hear you out even before you realize that. Talk good things and don’t expose yourself to hazardous lights and reactions that could affect the developing fetus.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.