World In The Womb

‘The fetus is continually active in and reactive to its environment’ Fetus can gather information to adapt better to the world it will face.. while inside the womb!

The explosive rate of growth and development that occurs during the period before birth is unparalleled at any other point in the lifespan. In just 266 days, a single fertilized cell develops into a sentient human newborn infant. While information regarding the structure of the developing embryo and fetus has long been available, knowledge concerning prenatal development of function is more recent. The advent of real-time ultrasound and improvements in electronic fetal heart rate monitoring technology in the early 1980s were followed by a wave of research on fetal neurobehavioral development. A renewed surge of interest in the prenatal period as the foundation for later life has recently been fostered by enormous attention devoted to “fetal programming” in relation to later health and well-being.

Prenatal intelligence and memory were not a part of research until 1970s. Till then fetus was considered as blind and deaf and no body ever imagined that fetus could gather information while in the womb. Even doctors did not care about using anesthetics while dealing with fetuses. But the insight into the developmental aspects of embryo have changed the whole perspective of these things. There are strong evidences that fetus can hear,smell and even memorize the information it receives. In order to discover whether or not a fetus can leam from the external environment, it is important to understand if and when it has the biological prerequisites for learning. In order for a child to leam in the womb, certain biological characteristics are necessary. The brain and central nervous system (CNS) must be capable of relaying and interpreting information from the other necessary component—the senses. If all of these pieces of the puzzle are present and put together correctly, it is possible for the child to leam. The question is: Can the fetus leam from the extemal environment? Brain and Central Nervous System Development To fully explore the area of prenatal brain and CNS development, I gathered information about the formation of these organs, the brain growth spurt, brain differentiation and growth rate, hormones involved in development, and studies of prematurely bom infants. By studying these different topics, a composite picture can be developed that details how the brain and CNS operate before birth. In the book Developmental Psychology. Shaffer details the formation of the unbom child from conception through delivery. There are three phases in the development of a baby. The first phase, called the germinal period, or period of the zygote, lasts from the moment the sperm meets the egg through the second week after conception. The next phase, the embryonic period, spans the third through the end of the eighth week. The third, and last, phase is the period of the fetus, or fetal period, and continues from the ninth week through birth. (Shaffer 111) During each of these three phases, numerous changes are taking place within the womb. In order to further examine the biological aspects of the developing fetus in the womb and its ability to receive stimuli from the extemal environment, it is necessary to study the development of the senses within the womb. Without the senses, information cannot be received from the environment. The senses allow sound, taste, touch, smells and visual stimuli to be received as well as the sensation of movement. This section addresses when the senses are formed and the use of the senses in the study of leaming ability.

The brain and central nervous system (CNS) must be capable of relaying and interpreting information from the other necessary component—the senses. If all of these pieces of the puzzle are present and put together correctly, it is possible for the child to leam. The question is: Can the fetus leam from the extemal environment? Brain and Central Nervous System Development To fully explore the area of prenatal brain and CNS development, I gathered information about the formation of these organs, the brain growth spurt, brain differentiation and growth rate, hormones involved in development, and studies of prematurely bom infants. By studying these different topics, a composite picture can be developed that details how the brain and CNS operate before birth. In the book Developmental Psychology. Shaffer details the formation of the unbom child from conception through delivery. There are three phases in the development of a baby. The first phase, called the germinal period, or period of the zygote, lasts from the moment the sperm meets the egg through the second week after conception. The next phase, the embryonic period, spans the third through the end of the eighth week. The third, and last, phase is the period of the fetus, or fetal period, and continues from the ninth week through birth. (Shaffer 111) During each of these three phases, numerous changes are taking place within the womb. In order to further examine the biological aspects of the developing fetus in the womb and its ability to receive stimuli from the extemal environment, it is necessary to study the development of the senses within the womb. Without the senses, information cannot be received from the environment. The senses allow sound, taste, touch, smells and visual stimuli to be received as well as the sensation of movement. This section addresses when the senses are formed and the use of the senses in the study of leaming ability. Now that the issue of biology has been explored, we can consider the possibility that a fetus has the psychological prerequisites for leaming as well. To understand whether or not there is a “psychology of the fetus,” the areas of cognition, tabula rasa versus innate knowledge, and dreaming will be discussed. The biological capability to learn is not enough; there must be a component of cognitive competence as well. These areas of psychology are meant to demonstrate that the fetus has not only the biological connections, but also the capability to use them. In an experiment women were allowed to hear an opera song throughout their pregnancy periods. Then, when the researchers analyzed the response of the babies of these women to the same song which their mothers heard during pregnancy researchers were amazed to see that they became calm and relaxed. But the babies of women who never heard the song during their pregnancy started crying or were did not respond at all. According to one scientist “fetus is bathing in mothers sound”. Scientists analyzed that fetus can hear very loud sounds from outside. It can clearly hear mother;s sound. The vibrations of mother’s sound propagate through mother’s bones and cartilages to amniotic fluid and finally reach fetus ear. Fetus can therefor distinguish mother’s voice from other voices. In another experiment, an audio recorder was attached to a nipple and babies were allowed to suck it. Baby can suck and hear a sound after that. Researchers observed that they sucked more when an audio of their mother’s sound was played. Fetus can, during the final stages of pregnancy grasp even a whole word! Fetus is largely influenced by its mothers physiological and psychological conditions during pregnancy. Regarding the influence of song, it is not what the mothers hear during pregnancy but what enjoyment she drives from doing that which shapes the baby’s immediate response. An example is that babies of mothers who liked rock songs but forced to hear classical songs during their pregnancy completely lost interest in classical songs! Adapting to the womb The fetal environment is very different from that experienced after birth. In order to survive in this environment the fetus may exhibit behaviours suited to this environment ontogenetic adaptations (Oppenheim, 1984). To date, there has been little research examining this aspect of the fetus’s behaviour. It may be that some of the reflexes exhibited by the newborn are required by the fetus to aid its movement during birth.