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"Each time people ask me when exactly I started dancing, I say, 'In my mother's womb.'" — Isadora Duncan
There is a silent conversation born from the physical fusion between you and your baby during pregnancy—an unspoken communication that deepens as you journey together toward birth. The connection moves both ways: from you to your baby and from your baby to you. The process is sometimes called "entrainment," a term that means a close movement in synchronicity. Entrainment was discovered in 1665 by Dutch scientist Christian Hugans. He found that if he placed numerous pendulum clocks in the same room and started the pendulums at different rates, the clocks would soon synchronize and start moving to a single beat. Other experiments have been done to show that hearts beating near one another "entrain" and start beating at a single rhythm. The dynamic is so universally understood that jazz musicians use the term for the way that distinct and individual musicians will find their beats synchronizing together—creating one pulsing sound.
The synchronization of your heartbeat along with your baby's own heartbeat is just one of the ways in which you and your baby communicate before birth. That communication is an integral part of a spiritually-aware journey during pregnancy.
Visualize the umbilical cord as a telephone wire that connects two receivers—or as a cord between two tin cans in the old fashioned children's game. That communication goes both ways, and encompasses physical, emotional, and spiritual connection. Although it is conducted in the language of love rather than words, it is powerful and profound. The domino effect of mother-to-child child chemical changes transmitted through emotion-borne hormones can also physically alter the state of your baby within the womb, after birth, and beyond.
"Prenates can see, hear, feel, remember, taste, and think before birth," says Luminare-Rosen, founder and co-director of The Center for Creative Parenting in Marin and Sonoma counties, California. Evidence for this fact is science-based.
In a 1984 study, French scientists found that babies less than two hours old responded more to their mother's voice than to the voices of five other, unfamiliar women. A separate study from Queen's University, Ontario, Canada in 2003 recorded the fact that sixty term fetuses showed spiked heart rates when their mother read a passage from a book, as compared to the same reading being carried out by the voices of outsiders.
Dr. Thomas R. Verny, a prominent expert on the effects of prenatal and early postnatal environment on personality development, asserts that prenatal stimulation bodes well for healthy fetal development.
"Every minute, there are new brain cells being formed in the unborn child. And as the new brain cells are being formed, pathways or circuits are being formed along the lines that help assist communication for whatever the child the needs. For example, the child will obviously need to breathe, the child will need to move when he is born, the eyelids will need to open and close, so all these organs and all the nervous tissue that supply these organs have to start developing long before birth.
It's the same thing with the brain circuits. The more you stimulate a child's skin, or the more you stimulate its auditory nerves (hearing), the more those pathways will develop and become stronger so that when the child is born, he or she is better prepared for the world."
Venezuelan clinical psychologist Dr. Beatriz Manrique's classic study on the effect of pre- and post-natal stimulation on babies proved the theory that babies who were stimulated with touch and sound in the womb were more vital and active at birth. The newborns in her control group who had been "communicated with" by their mothers before birth had more developed head control and were able to move their heads in the direction of their parent's voices.1
As an OB/GYN, I myself have seen the deep connection and communication of mother and child before birth. For instance, I had a patient who was troubled because she was having recurring dreams that her baby was suffocating; the patient was insistent that something was wrong. I sent her to a woman's center where a non-stress test of the baby showed placental insufficiency—which meant that the child was conserving energy and was indeed "suffocating" through a lack of in utero nutrients. The baby was born, healthy, via C-section because her mother's inner intuition led to her physician's close attention and care.
Another patient told me that she calmed herself and controlled the movements of her unborn by singing it a particular song when she was pregnant. To this day, the three month old will immediately stop crying when her mother sings this particular song, sung to her when she was nestled in the womb.
World culture is full of strange and wonderful stories of babies communicating with their mothers before birth. In the New Testament it is said that St. John the Baptist "leapt for joy" in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when Mary and her own unborn child came to visit them. In the West African epic Sunjata from the ancient kingdom of Mali, the hero Sunjata occasionally escapes from his mother's womb to play around the house in spirit, before birth; and when he is ready to be born, he speaks to his mother aloud and tells her so. And in Kabbalah, the mystery cult of Judaism, it is said that the child in the womb knows everything that God knows. Upon birth, an angel presses his finger to the child's lips to silence him, hence the mysterious indent we all carry over our lips.
In our own time, some biographers tell an apocryphal story that Albert Einstein's superhuman brain capacity was due to the fact that he consciously decided to spend an extra several months in the womb.
The idea that your thoughts, actions, feelings, and surroundings affect your unborn child and that your baby is aware of sensation, sound, emotion, and thought while you are pregnant is not just a fairy tale; it is a theory that is increasing in science-based evidence. If you consider the fact that as recently as fifty years ago, people were drinking and smoking during pregnancy and not considering the effects on the unborn child, you can understand how far we have come—and how far we have yet to go—in understanding the deep mother/child conversation that begins before birth.
Before we begin to work together in helping you decipher the language of your unborn baby, let's consider an important physical dynamic.
Stress, Hormones, and The Fetal Blood Barrier
Professor Vivette Glover at Imperial College, London and Dr. Pampa Sarkar of Wexham Park Hospital, Berkshire took a blood sample from 267 mothers and a sample from the amniotic fluid surrounding their babies. The report of the experiment, published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, revealed that, at seventeen weeks or older, the higher the cortisol in the mother's blood, the greater the cortisol in the baby's amniotic fluid.
Cortisol is a hormone produced by stress, and while it helps to compensate when the body is in crisis, high levels can add to depression, fatigue, and impaired growth.
The good news is that stress hormones are something you can control. You can use biofeedback, meditation, and other methods to control the stress chemicals you pass from your bloodstream to your child, just as you avoid smoking, drinking, and unhealthy food and environments.
Your Baby's Secret Language of Senses
More Advanced Communication Techniques
Here is our tried and tested method of pre-natal meditation, designed to help strengthen the back and forth communication of you and your baby before birth. You can record this yourself, using a soothing and centered voice. The sound of your voice will be heard and felt by your baby while you are doing the meditation.
Find a comfortable, safe place. It can be warm, cool, dry, or wet (like a warm bath).
Imagine yourself comfortably in the place with the energy of life inside you.
If your baby kicks, acknowledge their presence in your mind.
Thank them for being with you in this quiet time.
As you allow yourself to focus on your breath, notice the air passing over your nose, bringing oxygen to you and your baby. Release the breath and share your baby into the air around you.
As you continue to focus on your breath—in and out—let your body relax: muscles loose, jaw relaxed, and let your belly fall forward.
Picture yourself standing in front of your meditative self, watching your chest rise and fall with each breath. See within your belly a faint red glow of your baby's heart pumping oxygen that previously inhaled through your breath. See this little heart beat growing brighter red and warming your belly from the inside. Now also see your heart beat beginning to glow with love, as if communicating encouragement and love to your little one. See the baby's heart beat slowly speed up, as if excited by your recognition, and your heart rate slowly rising to match the excitement.
Your standing body sees the rhythms of both hearts moving together as if controlled by an unseen but all-loving force. Watch the wave moving in time with your breath and notice your baby's movements, each little movement a sign that he or she is aware of your communication.
With your heart rates now moving up and down with each respiration and each breath conveying a message of love and affirmation, place your hands on your belly and feel the warmth of your skin. As you do, feel the warmth from your heart move down your arms, into your hands, and out your fingers into the skin of your belly.
1Manrique B. "A Controlled Experiment in Prenatal Enrichment with 684 Families in Caracus, Venezuela: Results to Age Six." Association for Pre-and Perinatal Psychology and Health. Journal of Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 1998; 12.
Shawn A. Tassone, MD, and Kathryn M. Landherr, MD, (Austin, TX) are board-certified OBGYNs. In addition to their traditional medical training and practice, they each have completed two-year fellowships in integrative ...