Growing a life inside you is amazing. Though it’s not an easy journey, (what with the nausea, fatigue, cravings and the likes?) mums-to-be cannot fail, but wonder how the baby is growing and developing. Turns out babies are busy in the womb! Here’s what the scientists have to say about what your foetus is up to during your pregnancy
1. Foetal urine, source of amnionic fluid
Once babies develop cardiac and renal systems, their kidneys begin to process foetal blood flow and create urine, which is subsequently peed out into the surrounding amniotic fluid.
Fetal urine is a big source of amniotic fluid past the first few months of pregnancy! As for where it goes…babies constantly swallow and process amniotic fluid over and over throughout gestation, which means just about every human being has swallowed and digested their own pee.
2. They cry
In one study that video recorded ultrasounds of foetuses during the third trimester, startling the baby with a low-decibel noise against the mother’s abdomen caused their foetuses to display traditional crying behaviour, such as opening their mouths, depressing their tongues, and gasping irregularly. Researchers even spotted that tell-tale quivering lower lip.
3. They practice facial expressions
By observing 4D scans of foetuses, scientists found that by 24 weeks, unborn babies could achieve ‘two dimensional’ facial expressions such as curling their mouth in a smile.
By 36 weeks, unborn babies could achieve more complex facial expressions including ‘pain’ through lowered eyebrows, wrinkled nose, and stretched mouth.
4. They react to stress
In one study at Durham and Lancaster universities in England, the more anxiety mums reported, the more often their foetuses used their left hands to touch their face.
This suggests that a mum’s emotions might impact their movements in subtle and surprising ways. It also suggests that mums should try to relax.
5. They anticipate touch
Your baby’s sense of touch begins to develop early in pregnancy as it explores the uterine wall, umbilical cord and even its own body parts, spending the most time touching its face.
As early as the ninth week, your baby will respond when its lips or areas around the mouth are touched. By the eighth month, it moves towards the source with mouth open.
6. Can smell and taste the same things you can
If you can smell something whiffy, your baby probably can too. It’s suggested that from about 28 weeks, your baby can smell the same things as you. Babies at this stage can be seen grimacing and moving around when things get whiffy.
The nutrients in the food you eat seep into your amniotic fluid, which the fetus gulps down and can ‘taste’. And your tastes rub off: One study found that mothers who regularly ate carrots gave birth to little bunny-wannabe babies who love carrots more than babies whose mums didn’t eat this vegetable much.
7. They take a pee
Babies generally do not poop in the womb, given that their digestive systems are not used to process much outside of the swallowed urine. They do accumulate a small amount of foetal poop known as meconium the sticky, green substance that will form your baby’s first poo after birth.
During the last 10 weeks of pregnancy, babies have been found to actively listen to their mothers’ voices. They might not yet understand what you’re saying, but they’re paying close attention to how you say it. Thanks to all of this time spent listening to you moan about your indigestion, your baby will be able to recognise your voice as soon as he/she is born.
Your developing baby could be practicing his winning smile from the comfort of your uterus. Using 4D scans, sonographers have discovered that babies smile in the womb from around week 26.
10. They also recognise songs
Foetuses can hear specific speech patterns and intonations, although probably not recognise words themselves. Some studies have shown that babies after birth will recognise and be comforted by a story read repeatedly to them while in the womb or even by particular songs such as the theme from a television show watched regularly during pregnancy.
In another study conducted at the University of Helsinki, researchers played Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, a nursery rhyme over and over during the mum’s third trimester.
After birth, they played the song again. Electroencephalogram (EEG) readings via electrodes on the infants’ heads showed greater brain activity for infants who’d heard the song in utero than for those who hadn’t. This suggests that they could name that tune.