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Prenatal Learning in the Womb Can Affects Later Development

Prenatal Learning and Impact on Later Development

The learning ability of a child begins at the early stage of the pregnancy. By the eighteenth week of pregnancy, the baby’s hearing is fully developed, and the child can hear and respond to the mother’s heartbeat and the sounds passing through the mother’s uterus even from the outside environment. The study of this scenario is very important because it can reveal the relationship of development at these stages with the later developmental stages. Children who have benefited from prenatal learning are noticed to have better school readiness; they also reach early developmental milestones later in life. In addition, these babies are more visibly ready to absorb and appreciate their environment; they are more interactive, responsive and well-balanced.

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Response to Sounds and Voices

A number of studies explored the exposition of babies to the sounds before and after they were born. The researchers compared the responses of the babies to the sounds in the uterine to those which could be observed after the birth. This can be referred to as exposure learning. Fifer & Moon (1989) state that the ability to recognize the mother’s voice is acquired before the child is born. Newborn babies were exposed to their mother’s voice after sucking at a faster and a slower rate than a baseline rate. The baseline sucking rate was established by the newborns sucking on a dummy with no simulation. The newborns were made to hear the mothers’ voices through headphones if it sucked at a faster rate than the baseline and the voice of a non-familiar woman if they sucked slower. The research revealed that they sucked faster when they heard the voice of a non-familiar woman, while on hearing their mother’s voice they started sucking more slowly. Hepper (1991) posits that newborns learn familiar sounds or tunes already in 30 weeks. Other researches have concluded that the newborn prefers its mother’s voice after birth (DeCasper, & Fifer, 1980; Fifer & Moon, 1989; qtd. in Hepper, 1996). According to Hepper, the child recognizes the voice not really as the mother’s voice but as a familiar voice (1996). These studies indicate that prenatal learning contributes to the child’s development and strengthens the baby’s connection with its mother after the birth.


Memory helps in recording information, recalling learning experiences, recognizing individuals, and remembering new information, this is why memory extension is necessary for babies. A number of researches keep to the point that a foetus has an ability to remember things even at a prenatal stage, which contradicts to the earlier belief that a child acquires this ability only at the age of three. The means of expressing this memory before they start speaking include drawing pictures and displaying the understanding that all people have the same parts of the body. It has been discovered that prenatal development has a profound effect on the postnatal development. The research has been conducted by means of ultrasound observations of fetal behavior. Twins have been proven to acquire certain habits while being in the uterine; they were noticed to have the same habits some years after their birth. For example, the doctors registered a pair of twins playing cheek-to-cheek on either side of the dividing membrane and one year after their birth, their favorite game consisted in laughing and giggling as they touched each other standing on the opposite sides of the curtain and playing through it. All these cases testify to the fact that prenatal learning is indeed possible; not only babies are able to learn when they are still not born but they are able to memorize information and acquire habits they can then have after their birth. If a child has an ability to learn and memorize, than it is also capable of developing its memory; development of memory may positively influence its future life and, especially, studies at school and higher educational institutions.

Learning of Language and Traumatic Incidents

Scientists assert that babies are able to learn a definite language even when they are yet not born. Thus, for instance, it has been discovered that after the birth Russian babies would prefer to watch people speaking the Russian language as would do the French (Hepper, & Shadullah, 1994; Lecanuet, Granier-Deferre, DeCasper et al., 1987; qtd. in Hepper, 1996). According to Lecanuet, Granier-Deferre, DeCasper et al. (1987) and Lecanuet, Granier-Deferre, Jacquet et al. (1993; qtd. in Hepper, 1996), the fetus possess the ability to differentiate different types of speech sounds while being at the womb. Such a prenatal learning of the mother tongue has been documented by the acoustic spectroscopy. This possibility of learning before even being born has been explored by developing appropriate methods to empower the babies develop better learning skills which would be beneficial after birth. Since the babies access the mother’s diet through swallowing amniotic fluid and by breathing when they are still in the womb, change in diet at these times may confuse the baby after birth and upset breastfeeding. This accounts for the fact that most of newborns prefer breast milk. Exposure to colostrums for the first time since birth has shown that it is familiar to the newborn because it has the same taste as the amniotic fluid. Breast milk is important for child’s future learning abilities. Prenatal learning may therefore be applicable in influencing further behavior and approach to food and diet.

Traumatic events that take place n the adult life are imprinted in the memory of the baby at prenatal ages. An example of this is the case when a child that was born prematurely entered the NICU at the age of 29. The baby developed fear to appearance and sound of adhesive tape even as a young man because it experienced accidental removal of sections of his skin during removal of monitor pads. Study of premature infants and newborns have changed the view held previously that newborns did not possess a memory (Thomas, 1993; Gekoski, 1984; qtd. in Hepper, 1996). Prenatal learning may be induced to help the child imprint positive elements of behaviors and attitudes. Children were even found to participate in emotional set-up of their mothers who were watching a disturbing 20-minute segment of a Hollywood movie, and exhibited recognition of their earlier experience when re-exposed to this film. Babies displayed experience for depression by showing depression at this stage, because their mothers had similar experience during pregnancy (Chamberlain, 1995). This shows that certain behaviors which may be available at prenatal stage may affect the future life of a child. In addition, it shows that a child may learn to react to the surrounding environment the way it reacted when being in womb.

Enhancing the Child’s Abilities

There exist a number of ways which can positively influence the development of a baby before birth, although there is some evidence that hereditary genes may play a very important role in intelligence and learning development. These involve use of appropriate dietary components as well as physical exercises. Children whose mothers did physical exercises during their pregnancy, showed better results in oral language and general intelligence tests at the age of five, because neuro development may be boosted by the sounds and vibrations made during the time of exercises. This study involved children of 20 expectant women who had practical exercises throughout their pregnancy and an equal number who quit working.

In order to enhance the capability of the baby after birth, mothers have been known to play music, talk and read books to their unborn babies; this practice creates a bonding experience between mother and child and influences the life of the baby after birth in terms of its response to certain sounds and issues. The womb has been practically used as learning class where prenatal education is applied to enhance the auditory and learning ability in the course of baby’s development. The difference between those babies born by mothers who practised prenatal education and those who did not consists not only in better development of the brain and intelligence, but also in better physical development, since babies of those mothers who practised prenatal education have been born with eyes and hands open and more relaxed.

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  1. Chamberlain, B.D. Prenatal Memory and Learning. Life Before Bith. 
  2. Gekoski, M.J., Fagen, J.W., & Pearlman, M.A. (1984). Early learning and memory in the preterm infant. Infant Behav Devel, 7, 267-76.
  3. Hepper, P.G. (1996). Fetal memory: Does it exist? What does it do? Acta Pædiatr (Stockholm), 416, 16-20.
  4. Hepper, P.G., (1994). Shadullah S. Noise and the fetus: a critical review of the literature. Sudbury Norfolk: HSE Books.
  5. Hepper, P., Slater, A., & Lewis, M. (2006). Prenatal development. Routledge.
  6. Lecanuet, J.P., Granier-Deferre, C., Jacquet, A.Y., Capponi, I., & Ledru, L. (1993) Prenatal discrimination of male and female voice uttering the same sentence. Early Devel Parenting, 2, 217-28.
  7. Thomas, E.B. & Ingersoll, E.W. (1993). Learning in premature infants. Devel Psychol, 29, 692-700.

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