Familiarity Starts Months Before Birth: The Importance of in Utero Experiences

in utero

An infant is born with a degree of familiarisation with the world that awaits him or her. This sets the stage for the important developmental milestones that will follow. Right from the moment he is born, a newborn will latch onto any stimuli in the surrounding environment that evokes a sense of familiarity from his time in his mother’s womb. When he is nestled close to his mother’s body, the sound of her vocalisations and heartbeat will already be familiar. When his mother’s arms are wrapped around him, this triggers a visceral memory of his previous existence within her uterine walls.

Fiona related the following concerning her daughter Sarah: “I learned that a foetus begins to hear and recognise sounds between the age of seventeen and twenty-four weeks. Once I realised this, I started to perceive her differently. I saw her as a person with memories and the ability to recognise sounds. I imagined that she had the ability to recall a particular tune. From that point in my pregnancy, I sang a certain song on a regular basis to her and talked to her every day. In the hospital, the nurses would comment that although it was hard to stop Sarah’s wailing, she would relax as soon as I began singing the tune I had chosen months earlier. I feel as though upon hearing this melody, she would begin to concentrate on its sound and stop her protests.”

A baby in the early stages of life may feel drawn to, and engage with, this sense of familiar found within his mother’s voice or arms. Alternatively, he may flee the situation through the unconscious state found in sleep, in which any strangeness in the environment is immediately dissolved.

To learn more about the effect of our very earliest experiences on our later lives, especially our behaviour in relationships with others read my book “The Enigma Of Childhood: The Profound Impact of the First Years of Life on Adults as Couples and Parents” available from Amazon and direct from Karnac Books.

Posted in Parenting, Pregnancy