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October 9, 2005
In utero

Zenit has a very interesting interview with an Italian neonatologist, on the sensory perceptions of children in the womb.


Toward the 25th week of gestation, the fetus has developed hearing. Within the uterus the mother's voice comes with much greater intensity than another's voice -- or the father's! -- and the fetus gets used to this voice, so much so that several experiments have shown us that the newborn is able to distinguish the mother's voice from that of a strange voice, just as it is able to distinguish the mother's scents.

This will serve to recognize the maternal milk, which has a taste and smell similar to the amniotic fluid which for nine months has soaked its tongue and lips....

Research was published in Pediatrics in 2001 which showed that at the moment of weaning the child prefers tastes that it perceived in the uterus in a certain period, although these tastes were not given to it during lactation. Therefore the fetus has memory.

Can anybody out there explain how a child would perceive the taste of something that comes to him through the umbilical cord? This sounds very interesting, and I can certainly believe that a child can recall those tastes and scents, but how do these tastes go from food that a mother has eaten through the digestive process and down the umbilical cord?

Anyway, more from the interview:

The fetus has a world of sensations, but also of actions. The fetus responds in its own way to external stimuli. It is frightened if it hears noise; it responds to patting.

But it exercises itself for life in the open air: It does breathing exercises constantly, even when immersed in the amniotic fluid, and attempts have been registered to emit sounds visualizing the vocal cords.

It has hiccups and makes faces as though smiling or crying. Its movements respond to phases of calm or movement of the mother, and also of the amount of sugar the mother eats...

[T]he fetus is already a new member of the family and company for the mother even before being born.

Thanks to Brandon for the link.

Posted by Papa-Lu at October 9, 2005 4:12 PM
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The flavor molecules (esters and so on) are small enough to pass into the blood stream, cross the placenta, and be incorporated into the amniotic fluid. Ditto the milk. I am not talking about sweet/salty/bitter etc, but more about the aromatic molecules like the ones that makes garlic garlicky, etc.

Posted by: alicia at October 10, 2005 12:35 PM
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