What Happens In the Womb
It is commonly perceived that developing is the only thing going on with a fetus in the womb. Fetal origins hypothesis has debunked this idea and said that learning also is occuring which creates a big controversy along the lines of deciphering between what is learning and what is developing. The argument on deck is that all of it development, which cannot be the case after researching the learning aspects the fetus goes through. I am not arguing that all of what goes on in the womb is learning, I know that there is also lots of development occurring in the fetuses body and brain but I am definitely advocating that babies also begin learning, even before they are born. You know the saying “they got that from their mother” that the mother embarrassingly says when their child does something good? That really means they learned that from their mother because while in utero the baby feeds off of when their mother is talking, what they eat the most, and the emotions she is feeling.
When discussing what I mean by learning in the womb, topics such as babies recognize their moms voice, food preferences, and passed down PTSD come up. Some may think of babies recognizing their mother’s voice in the womb is a reflex or developmental part of their time as a fetus because they believe it happens naturally therefore it must be a part of development , but in fact the fetus is learning. In Weber’s Dictionary, learning is defined as “to gain knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience”. With the definition in mind, think of being able to recognize their mom’s voice as the skill that they’re going to obtain, they learned to know the vibrations of her voice through studying it in their third trimester in the womb. To further prove my point an experiment was conducted with infants in Sweden where professor of psychology, Christine Moon, from the Pacific Lutheran University of Tacoma says that throughout the study, “babies listened to vowel sounds in their native tongue and in foreign languages. Their interest in the sounds was captured by how long they sucked on a pacifier that was wired into a computer measuring the babies’ reaction to the sounds. Longer or shorter sucking for unfamiliar or familiar sounds is evidence for learning, because it indicates that infants can differentiate between the sounds heard in utero,”. Moon’s statement as a professor of psychology provides substantial evidence to the idea that recognizing voices is in fact “evidence for learning” and not developmental.
Food preferences is another part of fetal origins that my opposing side might see as developmental. Food preferences in babies are definitely learned while in utero, they learn what they like by what their mother eats while pregnant. Some may argue back at this by saying things like women have cravings when they’re pregnant and only eat junk foods, which babies can’t eat. But it is not cravings I am referring to, I am talking about repetition in the food that is consumed by the mom. Another study was conducted by Julie Manella, author of Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism; Complementary Foods and Flavor Experience: Setting the Scene where they use carrots as the food they want the baby to have a liking for, or the “skill” they want the baby to obtain through “instruction”. The study consisted of pregnant women drinking carrot juice or no carrot juice and then when their babies are born seeing if they gravitate towards carrots. We know this is learning because the moms were instructed to drink carrot juice thus giving the fetus those healthy nutrients which allows the baby to know that since my mom likes this food I must learn to gravitate towards it. On the other hand the women who did not drink the juice found that their babies were reluctant to try the carrots and did not enjoy the taste because their mom did not teach them to like carrots while in utero. There are huge teaching moments in the womb and mom’s cannot let that opportunity go to waste when there’s a chance to teach your kids to like vegetables before they’re even born! You can say that babies develop a food preference through their mom but this study aids in proving that is taught to them through repetition in utero.
Infants as young as one-year old can also experience post traumatic stress disorder even if they have not been through the trauma first hand. To the opposing view this topic alone could easily be seen as developmental but after referring back to the definition of learning we know the PTSD is obtained by the baby through “experience”. This is not to say that all infants or fetuses whose mother has been through serious trauma also experiences her pain but it is very likely and we know that through experimentation. A study done by professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Mount Sinai Medical Sentre in New York, Rachel Yehuda, and her colleagues conducted an experiment with pregnant women who were in New York City during the 9/11 attack and then their born babies a year later. They found that the women in their third trimester who had been diagnosed with PTSD baby’s also showed high levels of stress in the only one-year-old infant. This study helps to provide evidence that babies in utero also experience tragedies like their mother does, they learn from her emotions. I can see why one might say this disorder is passed down but after researching this study I am able to prove that because the fetus was in utero when the tragedy happened that they learned from their mom’s own experiences how to feel about the situation. The mother’s from the 9/11 tragedy had these emotions while pregnant and therefore taught their baby to share the same post traumatic stress disorder after they were born and while still in the womb.
I understand that it is easiest to believe that fetuses only develop while in the womb but I hope after obtaining the knowledge that scientists have given us through detailed studies that you can also come to know that babies begin learning in utero too.
“Can Trauma Be Transmitted Intergenerationally?” – Sandra Hercegova. (n.d.).
Mennella, J., & Trabulsi, J. (2012). Complementary Foods and Flavor Experiences: Setting the Foundation. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, 60, 40-50. doi:10.2307/48507172
While in womb, babies begin learning language from their mothers. (n.d.). Retrieved Washington University.