The Sounds of the World

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As your pregnancy progresses, your little one seems to be kicking more frequently in response to loud sounds and the voices of you and your partner. Can baby actually hear and recognize sounds in utero?

Between weeks 16 and 18, your little one’s hearing starts to develop. The first sound baby will hear is likely your heartbeat. But as the second trimester progresses, your child’s hearing will improve. During week 24, some babies have been observed on ultrasounds turning their heads toward their mother’s voice and other familiar sounds. By week 25, most babies can hear voices and other everyday sounds, and you may notice baby become more active when you speak, listen to music, watch television or perform loud tasks, such as vacuuming.

An Underwater Conversation

Many liken what babies hear in the womb to the sounds you may hear while underwater. Your baby may not be able to discern words, but she can likely pick up on frequency, tone and vocal rhythms. In fact, a variety of studies have found that newborns can recognize their mom’s voice and even the language she speaks, which shows learning may begin before birth.

Time for Prenatal Lessons?

Many women read to their babies or listen to classical music while pregnant. A 2013 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America found that babies who repeatedly heard a particular word were not only able to recognize the word after birth but could pick up on slight changes in pitch and vowel length. Other research indicates that babies remember lullabies they heard in the womb and that playing the lullaby after birth may be soothing. The verdict is out, however, on whether or not these early memories translate into long-term language and learning benefits.

While reading to your baby and listening to music may help you feel more bonded to your little one—and may even be beneficial from a learning perspective—it doesn’t necessarily give baby a head start in the classroom. Feel free to listen to whatever type of music you enjoy and refrain from placing speakers on your belly. The changes in volume may be overstimulating and disrupt baby’s sleep.

McKenzie-Willamette Birthing Center offers a variety of services for expecting parents and postpartum support. Call (541) 741-4649 for more information or visit McKWeb.com.

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