Monday, May 25, 2015

Every Parent-Child Interaction Shapes the Brain

Pathways in the brain created by neurons

Humans all begin the exact same way. We start our life out as a zygote, the fertilized egg in our mother’s uterus, 46 chromosomes that will determine everything from eye color to height and that help to influence our intelligence and who we are individually. By the fourth week of pregnancy, the zygote has turned into an embryo and will begin developing what will become its brain.

The brain begins as the ectoderm, which is the top layer of the now three-layered embryo, and will develop into the neural tube which will close by week six. At ten weeks gestation, the new brain will begin forming neurons at the rate of 250,000 per minute, according to the article “Fetal Development: What Happens During the First Trimester?”  At the 16th week, the fetus’ eyes are becoming sensitive to light, and at week 18, the fetus can hear. By the 28th week, the fetus’ eyes open.

*Parenting Begins In Utero*

Why does this matter? Many mothers believe that their interactions with their unborn child can have an impact. Some parents even go so far as to parent in utero — reading and talking to their unborn child, already loving their baby deeply before even meeting him face to face. Research now shows what these parents already knew; parents influence their child’s psychological development from very early on.

According to the article “Early and Very Early Parenting” by William Sallenbach, PhD, as early as 1920, psychologists began studies involving prenatal learning. In a case study, prenatal learning was observed especially in the last trimester of pregnancy. By reading, singing, or even just talking to her unborn child, a mother begins their bonding experience early on. Research shows that fetuses even recognize their mothers’ voices when they hear it in the womb.

These findings indicate “that in-utero experience has an impact on the newborn/infant behavior and development and that voice recognition may play a role in mother-infant attachment,” as noted by Barbara Kisilevsky in the article “Mothers Voice Triggers Fetus Heart Rate Increase” .

This shows that simple parental interaction with children has a very vital impact on the child’s psychological development. According to the 2005 ABC News story “Parent-Child Connection Shapes Brain” by Amanda Onion, available on, “Allan Schore, a leading neuroscientist at the University of California-Los Angeles’ Center for Culture, Brain, and Development, points out that the parent-child connection during a child’s first year can not only affects a child’s psychological state, it actually plays a role in physically shaping the brain. The benefits appear to be more internal: It’s the child’s ability to handle stress and feel emotionally secure that evolves during this early part of life.”

*Our Brains Start Out the Same*

At only week ten of gestation, a fetus’s neurons are forming at the rate of 250,000 per minute. By birth, a baby comes into his parents’ arms with about 100 billion neurons, each with about 10,000 branches! This is according to David Allen Walsh, PhD, in his book, /A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen/.

These neurons have great significance in that they send and receive all of our body’s messages. Fore example, as you read this article, your eyes see the words and transmit those images to your brain via neurons. Once that message reaches the brain, other neurons move the transmission along to the area of your brain that can translate the word images, so you can see and understand what you are reading.

*…But Our Experiences are What Make Us Unique*

If we all have the same neurons being built in our brains, why aren’t we all more alike?  The reason is simple: Each different life experience builds a new pathway in our brains. The more experiences you have in different areas, the stronger the pathways. This is why, as an adult, driving becomes second nature, whereas it was something that took great practice when we were teens. Many adults have spent so much time driving that the brain and nervous system take it on as a part of the normal daily routines and build pathways that allow us to drive as if it was a reflex — a kind of built-in spontaneous response to a known stimuli.

This is what happens with everything a person learns to do well. As a child grows, he is learning what they live.

    *If children are raised in a nurturing environment, the child learns to nurture and love. If they are raised in a home where a strong emotional parent-child attachment is not present, the neurons in the brain will build pathways that develop reflexes for protection.*

“The development of the necessary complexity of the child’s growing brain depends upon both genetic information and experiences,” describes Daniel Siegel and Mary Hartzell in their book, /Parenting From the Inside Out/. “In other words, the immaturity of the infant’s brain means that experiences will play a significant role in determining the unique features of emerging brain connections. Experience shapes even the very brain structures that will allow the perception of those experiences to be sensed and remembered.”

A 2000 article, “Brain Development Research, What It Means For Young Children and Families,”  agrees: “The impact of environmental factors on the young child’s brain development is dramatic and specific, not merely influencing the general direction of development but actually affecting how the intricate circuitry of the human brain is wired. Because the brain is organizing at such an explosive rate in the first years of life, experiences during this period have more potential to influence the brain — in positive and negative ways.”

*All Experiences – Good or Bad – Shape the Way Children Think*

Thus, much of the behavior a child develops is due to his or her upbringing. It is important to remember that all experiences change us. For example, an abused child will never be the same child he was before the incident of abuse. It’s the same for a child in an otherwise loving family who is exposed to a stressed-out, angry parent who acts out her frustration in front of or toward the child — a scenario seen in nearly all homes from time to time.

*There is Hope in AP*

While a poor parent-child interaction certainly affects the child, the effect can be repaired — even in families that have a regular pattern of these less-than-ideal interactions. The brain does retain the old pathways, so the child’s future will always be colored by his or her past, but with consistent attachment-promoting tools, children eventually learn compassion, empathy, trust, and other traits of a healthy, loving relationship that children raised with Attachment Parenting (AP) since birth began learning early on.

Knowing how important the early years are to brain development fully supports AP. Trust, love, and understanding are all important to teach through example to our children as they develop. As parents, we must work hard those wonderful, yet exhausting, first years of learning to communicate with one another with more than just words.

An infant knows only to cry, and through our actions, we teach them what response that brings. When we respond quickly, appropriately, and consistently to our newborns cries, the neurons are formed in the brain showing that the next time the infant is hungry, he should cry and the parents will satisfy his need. If the baby’s cries are ignored, the neurons formed show that the cry may or may not be answered.
These early brain connections build the foundation through which a child will govern his life. They make us who we are and who we will become.

Author: *By Amber Lewis*

How the first nine months shape the rest of your life : The New science of fetal origins

Click below link for more details:

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)

IN UTERO is a cinematic rumination on what will emerge as the most provocative subject of the 21st Century – life in the womb and its lasting impact on human development, human behavior, and the state of the world. Epigenetics, Alice In Wonderland, The Matrix, scientists, psychologists and doctors converge to prove that we are not what we think we are. IN UTERO brings together for the first time convincing data that explains why some of us face challenges from the start while others thrive. Prepare to be surprised, intrigued, but no longer baffled by what the future holds for yourself, your loved ones, and the human race.

By: Kathleen Gyllenhaal

The Fetal Senses: Twelve, Not Five: A New Proposal

During most of the 20th Century, scientists doubted the presence of functioning senses during fetal life. Touch was merely “reflexive”, hearing severely “dampened” (if not drowned) in the liquid environment of the womb; vision was primitive at best, first blocked by closed eyelids, and then distorted under water; and the sense of smell was judged “impossible” without air. By the end of the century, however, experts were reaching for a consensus that there could be touch, hearing, and tasting in utero. Nevertheless, considering the immaturity of the brain in utero, skepticism remained about how any sensory information could be given real meaning.

In 1988 I was in a small minority who found evidence for five senses operating meaningfully by birth.

Today, a few authorities are declaring that the idea of “five” human senses--an idea dating from the Renaissance--is a dubious oversimplification. The correct number, some suggest, is between 5 and 17 (e.g., Rivlin & Gravelle, 1984, Deciphering the Senses: The Expanding World of Human Perception). Encouraged by this assessment, I have taken another look at the experimental and clinical evidence (including experiences reported by my own clients) and would like to propose there are at least twelve senses already operating in utero. In brief, this is my list of twelve.

(1) Touch (including both receiving touch, and reaching out to touch) is the first sense to develop.
(2) Thermal sensing of hot and cold is indeed real, but usually overlooked.
(3) Pain sensing (now termed nociception) involves crushing and nerve damage. The reality of this experience was tragically overlooked in creating the protocols of obstetrics and neonatology.
(4) Hearing begins as early as 14 weeks after conception, then improves steadily with the arrival of cochlear resources and full growth of the external ear.
(5) Balance and orientation in space develops from week 7 to 12.
(6) The chemosensors of smell operate in close association with the chemosensors of
(7) taste as both are bathed by amniotic fluids passing through the nasal area.
(8) “Mouthing” is used to explore texture, hardness, and contours of objects; this sense is not about eating and nutrition.
(9) Sucking and licking in the womb are mouth-related pleasure senses. The sucking of fingers and toes is not nutritive. Male thumb sucking, seen as early as 13 weeks, is often paired with erections, suggesting sexual sensations. Ultrasound reveals prenates licking the placenta and twins licking each other, suggesting pleasure in bodily contact.
(10) Vision in utero is paradoxical because limited by eyelids being fused shut for about six months, yet it seems functional in being able to hit targets like needles during amniocentesis at 14 to 16 weeks of age. Some form of vision seems to facilitate twins boxing, kicking, kissing, and playing together in the womb.
(11) Although prenates have never been acknowledged for their psychic senses, they do demonstrate at least clairvoyance and telepathic sensing and attunement with parents whether they are near or far from each other; they know whether they are wanted or not, and discern the emotional disposition, and character of those around them.
(12) Finally, prenates also demonstrate transcendent sensing as they report out-of-body and near-death experiences. When out-of-body, for example, no senses should work for either babies or adults, but they do. In transcendent states, even immature senses function well and events are stored in memory--as can be demonstrated years later.
Thus, I conclude that contrary to both popular and scientific belief, babies operate in the womb with a rich spectrum of senses.

Author(s): David Chamberlin

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Importance of Prenatal Sound and Music

Following more than two decades as a music educator, Giselle E. Whitwell was certified as a Board Certified Music Therapist focusing her attention to the prenatal period of life. During the last twenty years, she has given lectures and workshops on prenatal music in the United States, South America, Europe, Russia, and Asia. She continues her work at the Centre for Prenatal and Perinatal Music, as well as being a Birth Doula and Birth Works Certified Childbirth Educator. She welcomes your stories or questions on the role of sound in prenatal development. In addition she is also certified as a Singing Therapist based on the Werbeck training, known as “The School of Uncovering the Voice.” Giselle and her spouse currently reside in Austin,Texas.
Introduction Music has played an important role in different cultures since time immemorial. It has profoundly affected human beings in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being. But only in this century has music begun to attract scientific attention. The research at the University of California in Irvine has provided some information about the effect of Mozart on the spatial and mathematical intelligence of children. Recently, an article in the Los Angeles Times newspaper (11/9/98) reported neurobiological research to the effect that "undeniably, there is a biology of music." Music is destined to play a more active role in the future of medicine. The following ideas illustrate how music affects our early development. The importance of prenatal music was born in my awareness over twenty years ago when I was expecting my youngest son. Through my communication with him telepathically and through his delay in arrival I was able to attend a music conference that was very important to me at that time. The doctor thought it would be dangerous for me to participate in something very active aside from the fact that he was due that week, and being the second child, he surely would arrive early if not on time. Well, our son was born the day after I attended this stimulating week of singing and gentle movement. Already at that time I observed that lullabies were relegated to the past: young mothers no longer knew this folk song tradition. Michel Odent, M.D., believes that women have a profound need to sing to their babies but that the medicalization of birth has upset this process. In the past, women all over the world have sung lullabies to their babies. These were very important because as we now know the fetus is having first language lessons in the womb. The inflections of the mother tongue are conveyed not only through speech but most importantly through song. The singing voice has a richer frequency range than speech. In fact, studies in other disciplines such as linguistics and musicology (e.g., David Whitwell, 1993) point out that there was a time when speech was song and therefore singing is the older of the two. Babies born of deaf mothers miss these important first lessons in language development. French pioneer Dr. Alfred Tomatis mentions being intrigued by the fact that song birds hatched by silent foster mothers can't sing. What the baby learns in utero are the intonational patterns of sound and the frequencies of a language in his/her particular culture. Frequency is the level of pitch measured in Hertz (Hz.) This range varies between 16 to 20,000 Hz. There is very little distortion of the mother's voice as heard by the fetus whereas other external voices sound more muffled, especially in the higher frequencies. According to Rubel (1984), the fetus is responsive first to lower frequencies and then to higher ones. Verny and others have noted that babies have a preference for stories, rhymes, and poems first heard in the womb. When the mother reads out loud, the sound is received by her baby in part via bone conduction. Dr. Henry Truby, Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics and Linguistics at the University of Miami, points out that after the sixth month, the fetus moves in rhythm to the mother's speech and that spectrographs of the first cry of an abortus at 28 weeks could be matched with his mother's. The elements of music, namely tonal pitch, timbre, intensity and rhythm, are also elements used in speaking a language. For this reason, music prepares the ear, body and brain to listen to, integrate and produce language sounds. Music can thus be considered a pre-linguistic language which is nourishing and stimulating to the whole human being, affecting body, emotions, intellect, and developing an internal sense of beauty, sustaining and awakening the qualities in us that are wordless and otherwise inexpressible. The research of Polverini-Rey (1992) seems to indicate that prenates exposed to lullabies in utero were calmed by the stimulus. The famous British violinist Yehudi Menuhin believes that his own musical talent was partly due to the fact that his parents were always singing and playing music before he was born.  

The Sound Environment of the Womb The sound environment of the womb is very rich. There are various interpretations as to the noise level, ranging between 30 to 96 dB. (decibel being a measure of sound intensity or loudness). A whisper can register 30 dB., a normal conversation is about 60 dB. and rush hour traffic can average about 70 dB. On the other hand, shouted conversations and motorcycles reach about 100 dB. Rock music has been measured as 115 dB. and the pain threshold begins at 125 dB. Yet, recent research with hydrophones have revealed that the womb is a "relatively quiet place" (Deliege & Sloboda, 1996), something comparable to what we experience in our environment between 50 and 60 dB. Uterine sounds form a "sound carpet" over which the mother's voice in particular appears very distinct and which the prenate gives special attention because it is so different from its own amniotic environment. These sounds are of major importance because they establishes the first patterns of communication and bonding. Some researchers have discovered that newborns become calmer and more self-regulated when exposed to intrauterine sound (Murooka et. al 1976; DeCasper 1983; Rossner 1979). The soothing sounds of the ocean and water are probably reminiscent of the fluid environment in which we began life. Tomatis suggests that the maternal heart beat, respiration and intestinal gurgling, all form the source for our collective attraction to the sound of surf and may have to do with our inborn sense of rhythm. Prenatal sounds form an important developmental component in prenatal life because they provide a foundation for later learning and behavior. With fetal sound stimulation the brain functions at a higher level of organization. The ear first appears in the 3rd week of gestation and it becomes functional by the 16th week. The fetus begins active listening by the 24th week. We know from ultrasound observations that the fetus hears and responds to a sound pulse starting about 16 weeks of age (Shahidullah & Hepper, 1992); this is even before the ear construction is complete. The cochlear structures of the ear appear to function by the 20th week and mature synapses have been found between the 24th and 28th weeks (Pujol et al. 1991). For this reason most formal programs of prenatal stimulation are usually designed to begin during the third trimester. The sense of hearing is probably the most developed of all the senses before birth. Four-month-old fetuses can respond in very specific ways to sound; if exposed to loud music, their heart beat will accelerate. A Japanese study of pregnant women living near the Osaka Airport found that they gave birth to smaller babies and had an inflated incidence of prematurity--arguably related to the environment of incessant loud noise. Chronic noise can also be associated with birth defects (Szmeja et al. 1979). I recently received a report from a mother who was in her 7th month of pregnancy when she visited the zoo. In the lion's enclosure, the animals were in process of being fed. The roar of one lion would set off another lion and the sound was so intense she had to leave the scene as the fetus reacted with a strong kick and left her feeling ill. Many years later, when the child was 7 years of age, it was found that he had a hearing deficiency in the lower-middle range. This child also reacts with fear when viewing TV programs of lions and related animals. There are numerous reports about mothers having to leave war movies and concerts because the auditory stimulus caused the fetus to become hyperactive. Alfred Tomatis notes that the ear is "the Rome of the body" because almost all cranial nerves lead to it and therefore it is considered our most primary sense organ. Embryonically, according to him, the skin is differentiated ear, and we listen with our whole body. In order to better understand the role of music in its elements of rhythm and melody, we must briefly clarify the two parts of the inner ear. These are the vestibular system and the cochlea. The vestibular system controls balance and body movements, including the integration of movements which make up the rhythm of music-making the vestibular system the more archaic. And according to Paul Madaule (1984) "it is in fact because of the vestibular system that music seems to have an impact on the body." At around 4 ½ to 6 weeks gestational age the vestibular and the cochlear systems become differentiated, at 7 ½ the auditory ossicles start to grow, and at 4 ½ months the ear of the fetus is already adult-like in shape and size. The cochlear system enables the transformation of acoustic vibrations into nervous influx, thus allowing the perception of melodies which carry higher frequencies. Knowing this, one can have a better understanding of the intimate relationship and unity of rhythm and melody. George Gershwin expressed this nicely: "Music sets up a certain vibration which unquestionably results in a physical reaction." With this in mind, we should choose for early music stimulation melodies and rhythms that are simple. Tomatis has a unique view of the function of the human ear going beyond what is traditionally assumed. He regards it as neither an instrument solely for hearing and listening, nor an organ for the maintenance of equilibrium and verticality. For him the ear is primarily a generator of energy for the brain, intended to give a cortical charge which is then distributed throughout the body "with the view to toning up the whole system and imparting greater dynamism to the human being" (Gilmor & Madaule, 1984, p. 6). Hence the importance of right sound stimulation which will lead to vocal expression, listening, and thinking. Sound, music and human development are intricately interwoven. Clearly, the vestibular system progresses rapidly as seen by the active movement of the fetus in utero. As early as the first trimester, regular exercise patterns have been observed with ultra-sound: rolling, flexing, turning, etc. (Van Dongen & Goudie, 1980). The movements appear as graceful somersaults, flexing of the back and neck, turning the head, waving arms, kicking legs-- all self initiated and expressive in nature. When the baby moves in utero, the heartbeat accelerates. DeMause (1982) summarizes reactions of the second trimester as follows: "The fetus now floats peacefully, kicks, turns, sighs, grabs its umbilicus, gets excited at sudden noises, calms down when the mother talks quietly, and gets rocked back to sleep as she walks about." The fetal heart is fully developed by the second trimester and its pulse rate oscillates between 120 to 160 beats per minute. Some think the distinctive rhythm of the mother's heart beat in utero is the basis and our attraction to drumming, rock rhythms, and the African tribal beat. Salk (1960), Murooka (1976), and De Casper (1983) provided evidence that newborns learned and remembered their mother's heart beat in utero. Ashley Montagu (1962) suggested that the universal appeal of music and the soothing effect of rhythmical sounds may be related to the feeling of well being assumed to exist in utero in relation to the mother's heartbeat. Salk (1960) showed that newborns in hospitals listening to heartbeat sounds gained weight at a faster rate. Likewise, breathing was deeper and more regular among these babies. According to W. Ernest Freud "rhythm itself provides a most reassuring 'cradle' because of its promise of repetition and continuity."  

Sound and Learning in Utero The powerful connection between sound/music and prenatal memory/learning have been revealed in formal experiments, parental observations, clinical records, and first person reports. Chamberlain (1998) using Howard Gardner's concept of multiple intelligences, has presented evidence for musical intelligence before birth. Peter Hepper (1991) discovered that prenates exposed to TV soap opera music during pregnancy responded with focused and rapt attention to this music after birth--evidence of long-term memory. On hearing the music after birth, these newborns had a significant decrease in heart rate and movements, and shifted into a more alert state. Likewise, Shetler (1989) reported that 33% of fetal subjects in his study demonstrated contrasting reactions to tempo variations between faster and slower selections of music. This may be the earliest and most primitive musical response in utero. The pioneering New Zealand fetologist, William Liley, found that from at least 25 weeks on, the unborn child would jump in rhythm with the timpanist's contribution to an orchestral performance. The research of Michele Clements (1977) in a London maternity hospital found that four to five month fetuses were soothed by Vivaldi and Mozart but disturbed by loud passages of Beethoven, Brahms and Rock. Newborns have shown a preference for a melody their mother sang in utero rather than a new song sung by their mother (Satt, 1987). Babies during the third trimester in utero respond to vibroacoustic as well as air-coupled acoustic sounds, indicative of functional hearing. A study by Gelman et al. (1982) determined that a 2000 Hz. stimulus elicited a significant increase in fetal movements, a finding which supported the earlier study by Johnsson et al. (1964). From 26 weeks to term, fetuses have shown fetal heart accelerations in response to vibroacoustic stimuli. Consistent startle responses to vibroacoustic stimuli were also recorded during this period of development. Behavioral reactions included arm movements, leg extensions, and head aversions (Birnholz and Benacerraf, 1983). Yawning activity was observed after the conclusion of stimuli. Research by Luz et al. (1980 and 1985) has found that the normal fetus responds to external acoustic stimulation during labor in childbirth. These included startle responses to the onset of a brief stimulus. New evidence of cognitive development in the prenatal era is presented by William Sallenbach (1994) who made in-depth and systematic observations of his own daughter's behavior from weeks 32 to 34 in utero. (The full report of his findings is available on this website in Life Before Birth/Early Parenting) Until recently, most research on early learning processes has been in the area of habituation (Querleu et al., 1981), conditioning (Van de Carr, 1988) or imprinting sequences (Salk, 1962). However, Sallenbach observed that in the last trimester of pregnancy, the prenate's learning state shows movement from abstraction and generalization to one of increased specificity and differentiation. During a bonding session using music, the prenate was observed moving her hands gently. In a special musical arrangement, where dissonance was included, the subject's reactions were more rhythmic with rolling movements. Similarly, in prenatal music classes, Sister Lorna Zemke has found that the fetus will respond rhythmically to rhythms tapped on the mother's belly. From what research is telling us, we may presume that prenates would prefer to hear lullabies sung by their mothers, or selected slow passages of Baroque music such as Vivaldi, Telemann, and Handel which have a tempo resembling our own heart beat at rest. Recent research has shown that four month old infants demonstrate an innate preference for music that is consonant rather than dissonant (Zentner and Kagan, 1998). However, this allows great latitude in the selection of music which babies and their mothers might like to hear. Our ultimate objective, of course is to help create not a musical genius but a person well integrated in his physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual self.

Author: Giselle Whitewel

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Psychology of Sound: How babies develop hearing and understanding

The first year of a baby's life is the most important in terms of development, and it's a fascinating time to learn about when considering the psychological implications of how our little ones understand and interpret the world around them. Hearing is the second of the five senses that your child will develop, and one of the most important for communication - so hopefully, this guide should give you a better understanding of how hearing develops, and how our children learn to react to different sounds in their environment!

The way a child reacts to sound is often determined by its early experiences as a foetus, so we'll start by taking a look at just how and when hearing starts, and what kinds of sounds can be heard in the womb.

Hearing development

The hearing organs start forming when a foetus is just three weeks old, starting at the inner ear and slowly building up to the ear canal, until eventually you'll be able to see the outer ears on an ultrasound image. This happens quite quickly - it's thought the auditory system becomes functional at around 25 weeks - so there's plenty of time for them to get used to the many noises detectable within the womb!

Hearing development also improves as the brain becomes more complex - any sounds the foetus hears will be created as new memory circuits, creating meaningful associations with each. A foetus can detect different moods and emotional responses to speech and music at around 36 weeks old, and will soon learn to distinguish between happiness, sadness, anxiety and peace.

What a foetus hears

By inserting a small hydrophone into the uterus of a  pregnant woman, researchers have found that even in calm, quiet environments the background noise in the womb is similar to that of a house or apartment. Common sounds included whooshing noises as the blood moves through adjacent vessels, gurgling from the stomach, and of course the heartbeat of the mother. The foetus can also hear the mother's speech, and will start tuning in to the voice, language and intonation - a feat that will have an impressive bonding effect between mother and baby once the child is born. A number of studies have been carried out on foetuses to find out exactly how they interpret sound while in the safety of the womb. We can detect reactions in the third trimester by monitoring the heartbeat under different conditions. This allows us not only to discover when the baby is agitated - for example by sudden noises - but also to find out what makes them most comfortable and relaxed. Tone is particularly important at this time; studies have found that foetuses respond to changes in pitch when music is playing, and are happier when they hear their mother speaking her everyday language rather than a foreign dialect with unfamiliar intonations.

Key sounds for soothing and calming

You can use your understanding of what foetuses hear in the womb to make them more comfortable, with just a few short steps each night. This won't just relax the baby now, but will also create a set of bonding associations that will continue even after the birth, allowing you to make a connection with your baby straight away. Here are some of the best things you can do to communicate with your bump:

Talk to them

While they won't be able to understand you, it's the tone and the comforting sound of your voice that makes this a simple yet effective way to soothe your baby during the last few weeks of pregnancy.

Read to them

Studies have shown that foetuses feel more relaxed when they are read the same book over and over again, indicating that memory is already relatively well-developed. Again, it's the tone rather than the content that counts - and your baby will have the same comforting association with the book of your choice even after birth! Do make sure you change it up occasionally though, to keep them engaged and give them plenty of new learning experiences while in utero.

After your baby is born, he or she will spend the first few weeks getting used to their new surroundings, and learning how to use their new sense of sight. During this time, familiar sounds and sensations are a good way of comforting them, and recreating the environment of the womb is a good way of comforting your baby when they seem agitated or overwhelmed. However, your baby's hearing will continue to develop until they are about six months old, so it's important to know exactly how it will improve and the effect this will have.

Hearing development

 While your baby will already have well-functioning ears at  birth, they'll continue to develop for the first six months, and you might notice in that time that your baby's preferences change. The reason for this is that they can hear a wider range of frequencies, and may be more susceptible to loud noises than they were before. The temporal lobe is also fully developing in this time, which is the part of the brain responsible for understanding sound, language and a whole host of other sensory stimuli - which is why you might find it a chore to get them to settle down in this time!

After around six months, your baby will have learned to detect where sounds are coming from, and within a year will be able to recognize and try to join in with favourite songs.

Your baby has a lot to learn in this first year - as well as the continued growth of many sensory organs, they'll also be trying to work out how to derive meaning from the sensory input around them. This can sometimes result in a little anxiety, but babies are well-prepared for this kind of sensory stimuli in their formative years, and you shouldn't worry unduly as they adapt to the world around them.

Source: Amplifon

Researchers at Harvard University Medical School recently reported their study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finding that an expectant mother’s voice plays a vital role in the development of the language centers in a baby’s brain. According to the study, a mother’s voice provides “the auditory fitness necessary to shape the brain for hearing and language development.” Not only does talking to your bump help you to bond with your little one, but it actually helps his brain to grow!

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)




The Fetal Senses: A Classical View

Sensitivity to Touch

The maternal womb is an optimal, stimulating, interactive environment for human development. Activity never ceases and a fetus is never isolated. Touch, the first sense, is the cornerstone of human experience and communication, beginning in the womb (Montagu, 1978). Just before 8 weeks gestational age (g.a.), the first sensitivity to touch manifests in a set of protective movements to avoid a mere hair stroke on the cheek. From this early date, experiments with a hair stroke on various parts of the embryonic body show that skin sensitivity quickly extends to the genital area (10 weeks), palms (11 weeks), and soles (12 weeks). These areas of first sensitivity are the ones which will have the greatest number and variety of sensory receptors in adults. By 17 weeks, all parts of the abdomen and buttocks are sensitive. Skin is marvellously complex, containing a hundred varieties of cells which seem especially sensitive to heat, cold, pressure and pain. By 32 weeks, nearly every part of the body is sensitive to the same light stroke of a single hair.

The Fetus In Motion

The first dramatic motion, one that has come to symbolize life itself, is the first heartbeat at about three weeks after conception. This rhythmic activity continues while valves, chambers, and all other parts and connections are under construction--illustrating an important fact about development: parts are pressed into service as they become available. Furthermore, use is necessary for development. Between week six and ten, fetal bodies burst into motion, achieving graceful, stretching, and rotational movements of the head, arms and legs. Hand to head, hand to face, hand to mouth movements, mouth opening, closing, and swallowing are all present at 10 weeks (Tajani and Ianniruberto, 1990). By 14 weeks, the complete repertoire of fetal movements seen throughout gestation are already in evidence (deVries, Visser, and Prechtl, 1985). Movement is spontaneous, endogenous, and typically cycles between activity and rest. Breathing movements and jaw movements have begun. Hands are busy interacting with other parts of the body and with the umbilical cord. From this early stage onward, movement is a primary activity, sometimes begun spontaneously, sometimes provoked by events. Spontaneous movement occurs earliest, probably expressing purely individual interests and needs. Evoked movement reflects sensitivity to the environment. For example, between 10 and 15 weeks g.a., when a mother laughs or coughs, her fetus moves within seconds. The vestibular system, designed to register head and body motion as well as the pull of gravity begins developing at about 8 weeks. This requires construction of six semicircular canals, fluid-filled structures in the ears, which are sensitive to angular acceleration and deceleration, and help maintain balance.

Tasting and Smelling

The structures for tasting are available at about 14 weeks g.a. and experts believe that tasting begins at that time. Tests show that swallowing increases with sweet tastes and decreases with bitter and sour tastes. In the liquid womb space, a range of tastes are presented including lactic, pyruvic, and citric acids, creatinine, urea, amino acids, proteins and salts. Tests made at birth reveal exquisite taste discrimination and definite preferences. Until recently, no serious consideration was given to the possibilities for olfaction in utero, since researchers assumed smelling depended on air and breathing. However, the latest research has opened up a new world of possibilities. The nasal chemoreceptive system is more complex than previously understood, and is made up of no less than four subsystems: the main olfactory, the trigeminal, the vomeronasal, and the terminal system, which provide complex olfactory input to the fetus. The nose develops between 11 and 15 weeks. Many chemical compounds can cross the placenta to join the amniotic fluid, providing the fetus with tastes and odors. The amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus bathes the oral, nasal, and pharyngeal cavities, and babies breathe it and swallow it, permitting direct access to receptors of several chemosensory systems: taste buds in three locations, olfactory epithelia, vomeronasal system, and trigeminal system (Smotherman and Robinson, 1995). Associations formed in utero can alter subsequent fetal behavior and are retained into postnatal life. The evidence for direct and indirect learning of odors in utero has been reviewed by Schaal, Orgeur, and Rogan (1995). They point to an extraordinary range of available odiferous compounds, an average of 120 in individual samples of amniotic fluid! In addition, products of the mother's diet reach the baby via the placenta and the blood flowing in the capillaries of the nasal mucosa. Thus, prenatal experience with odorants from both sources probably prepare this sensory system to search for certain odors or classes of odors. In one experiment, babies registered changes in fetal breathing and heart rate when mothers drank coffee, whether it was caffeinated or decaffeinated. Newborns are drawn to the odor of breastmilk, although they have no previous experience with it. Researchers think this may come from cues they have learned in prenatal life.

Listening and Hearing

Although a concentric series of barriers buffer the fetus from the outside world--amniotic fluid, embryonic membranes, uterus, and the maternal abdomen--the fetus lives in a stimulating matrix of sound, vibration, and motion. Many studies now confirm that voices reach the womb, rather than being overwhelmed by the background noise created by the mother and placenta. Intonation patterns of pitch, stress, and rhythm, as well as music, reach the fetus without significant distortion. A mother's voice is particularly powerful because it is transmitted to the womb through her own body reaching the fetus in a stronger form than outside sounds. For a comprehensive review of fetal audition, see Busnel, Granier-Deferre, and Lecanuet 1992. Sounds have a surprising impact upon the fetal heart rate: a five second stimulus can cause changes in heart rate and movement which last up to an hour. Some musical sounds can cause changes in metabolism. "Brahm's Lullabye," for example, played six times a day for five minutes in a premature baby nursery produced faster weight gain than voice sounds played on the same schedule (Chapman, 1975). Researchers in Belfast have demonstrated that reactive listening begins at 16 weeks g.a., two months sooner than other types of measurements indicated. Working with 400 fetuses, researchers in Belfast beamed a pure pulse sound at 250-500 Hz and found behavioral responses at 16 weeks g.a.--clearly seen via ultrasound (Shahidullah and Hepper, 1992). This is especially significant because reactive listening begins eight weeks before the ear is structurally complete at about 24 weeks. These findings indicate the complexity of hearing, lending support to the idea that receptive hearing begins with the skin and skeletal framework, skin being a multireceptor organ integrating input from vibrations, thermo receptors, and pain receptors. This primal listening system is then amplified with vestibular and cochlear information as it becomes available. With responsive listening proven at 16 weeks, hearing is clearly a major information channel operating for about 24 weeks before birth.

Development of Vision

Vision, probably our most predominant sense after birth, evolves steadily during gestation, but in ways which are difficult to study. However, at the time of birth, vision is perfectly focused from 8 to 12 inches, the distance to a mother's face when feeding at the breast. Technical reviews reveal how extraordinary vision is in the first few months of life (Salapatek and Cohen, 1987). Although testing eyesight in the womb has not been feasible, we can learn from testing premature babies. When tested from 28 to 34 weeks g.a. for visual focus and horizontal and vertical tracking, they usually show these abilities by 31-32 weeks g.a. Abilities increase rapidly with experience so that by 33-34 weeks g.a., both tracking in all directions as well as visual attention equals that of babies of 40 weeks g.a. Full-term newborns have impressive visual resources including acuity and contrast sensitivity, refraction and accommodation, spacial vision, binocular function, distance and depth perception, color vision, and sensitivity to flicker and motion patterns (Atkinson and Braddick, 1982). Their eyes search the environment day and night, showing curiosity and basic form perception without needing much time for practice (Slater, Mattock, Brown, and Gavin, 1991). In utero, eyelids remain closed until about the 26th week. However, the fetus is sensitive to light, responding to light with heart rate accelerations to projections of light on the abdomen. This can even serve as a test of well-being before birth. Although it cannot be explained easily, prenates with their eyelids still fused seem to be using some aspect of "vision" to detect the location of needles entering the womb, either shrinking away from them or turning to attack the needle barrel with a fist (Birnholz, Stephens, and Faria, 1978). Similarly, at 20 weeks g.a., twins in utero have no trouble locating each other and touching faces or holding hands!

The Senses in Action

Sense modalities are not isolated, but exist within an interconnecting, intermodal network. We close this section about fetal sensory resources by citing a few examples of how fetal senses work in tandem. We have already indicated how closely allied the gustatory and olfactory systems are, how skin and bones contribute to hearing, and how vision seems functional even with fused eyelids. When prenates experience pain, they do not have the air necessary to make sound, but they do respond with vigorous body and breathing movements as well as hormonal rushes. Within ten minutes of needling a fetus's intrahapatic vein for a transfusion, a fetus shows a 590% rise in beta endorphin and a 183% rise in cortosol--chemical evidence of pain (Giannakoulopoulos, 1994). Ultrasonographers have recorded fetal erections as early as 16 weeks g.a., often in conjunction with finger sucking, suggesting that pleasurable self-stimulation is already possible. In the third trimester, when prenates are monitored during parental intercouse, their hearts fluctuate wildly in accelerations and decelerations greater than 30 beats per minute, or show a rare loss of beat-to-beat variability, accompanied by a sharp increase in fetal movement (Chayen et al, 1986). This heart activity is directly associated with paternal and maternal orgasms! Other experiments measuring fetal reactions to mothers' drinking one ounce of vodka in a glass of diet ginger ale show that breathing movements stop within 3 to 30 minutes. This hiatus in breathing lasts more than a half hour. Although the blood alcohol level of the mothers was low, as their blood alcohol level declined, the percentage of fetal breathing movements increased (Fox et al, 1978). Babies have been known to react to the experience of amniocentesis (usually done around 16 weeks g.a.) by shrinking away from the needle, or, if a needle nicks them, they may turn and attack it. Mothers and doctors who have watched this under ultrasound have been unnerved. Following amniocentesis, heart rates gyrate. Some babies remain motionless, and their breathing motions may not return to normal for several days. Finally, researchers have discovered that babies are dreaming as early as 23 weeks g.a.when rapid eye movement sleep is first observed (Birnholz, 1981). Studies of premature babies have revealed intense dreaming activity, occupying 100% of sleep time at 30 weeks g.a., and gradually diminishing to around 50% by term. Dreaming is a vigorous activity involving apparently coherent movements of the face and extremities in synchrony with the dream itself, manifested in markedly pleasant or unpleasant expressions. Dreaming is also an endogenous activity, neither reactive or evoked, expressing inner mental or emotional conditions. Observers say babies behave like adults do when they are dreaming (Roffwarg, Muzio, and Dement 1966).

Author(s): David Chamberlin

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Introduction to Life Before Birth

Through many windows of observation, we can now see--for the first time in human history--what is actually happening in the womb. There is good news and bad news. We can no longer think that the placenta can protect the prenate from anything bad going on in the mother's body, or that the mother's body can protect the prenate from bad things going on in her world. Mother and baby face together the perils of air, water, and earth compromised by the toxic residues of modern chemistry and physics. Parents are perhaps the last ones to learn (and their children the first ones to suffer) these tragic realities of modern life. Pollution has many sources, beginning with the physical environment surrounding the mother and father. Numerous chemicals loose in the environment reach them where they work or find them in the garage or in cleaning supplies in the kitchen. Solvents, metals, pesticides, preservatives, fumes, and various forms of radiation are capable of interfering with reproduction. Chemical pollution also reaches us in the medical system through prescribed drugs which may put the well-being of the prenate at risk. Some medicines, like aspirin are hazardous at birth, as are some powerful anesthetics. Not long ago, an antibacterial soap used widely in hospitals and dispensed in public areas was discovered--after years of use--to be neurotoxic. Parents, too, can be a source of contamination and injury to the unborn baby as a consequence of their personal habits and lifestyle choices. Drugs thought to be harmless to adults can be harmful to babies because they are not able to handle these chemicals in adult doses. Nicotine, caffein, and aspirin, substances ubiquitous in adult life, can affect the course of growth and development of babies. The damaging effects of alcohol have been known for centuries and the most recent research (2005) warns that no level of alcohol in the pregnant mother is safe. Not so well known, and perhaps not yet even tested, are the toxic effects of experimental “street drugs” which damage parents as well as babies. All these discoveries are revealing the profound importance of very early parenting, beginning, not at the time of birth, but even before the time of conception when it is still possible to avoid a host of serious problems. An additional reason for parents to begin active parenting at conception is the discovery that babies in the womb are also developing more rapidly than previously thought possible. From the second month of pregnancy, experiments and observations reveal an active prenate with a rapidly developing sensory system permitting exquisite sensitivity and responsiveness. Long before the development of advanced brain structures, prenates are seen interacting with each other and learning from experience. They seem especially interested in the larger environment provided by mother and father, and react to individual voices, stories, music, and even simple interaction games with parents. The quality of the uterine environment is determined principally by parents. The opportunities for parents to form a relationship with the baby in the womb are significant and remarkable. This contrasts sharply with the previous view that prenates did not have the capacity to interact, remember, learn, or put meaning to their experiences. Only a decade ago, doctors typically told pregnant mothers and fathers that talking to a baby in the womb was useless and unrealistic. Now there is mounting evidence for memory and learning in utero and for precocious communication before the stage of language. These abilities of unborn babies underlie the successes reported in a series of scientific experiments with prenatal stimulation and bonding. They are also a basis for the personal stories occasionally shared by children and adults about their experiences before birth.

The Importance of Fetal Behavior : Research

The Importance of Fetal Behavior

The fetus is continually active in and reactive to its environment. But why does the fetus move, sense its environment, learn? It is possible that the behavior and experiences of the fetus have no impact on its development and are mere byproducts of the maturation process. However, research suggests the behaviour of the fetus is important for its development both before and after birth (Hepper, 1996), ensuring its survival and beginning its integration into the social world. Adapting to the womb - The fetal environment is very different from that experienced after birth. In order to survive in this environment the fetus may exhibit behaviors suited to this environment – ontogenetic adaptations (Oppenheim, 1984). To date, there has been little research examining this aspect of the fetus’s behaviour. It may be that some of the reflexes exhibited by the newborn are required by the fetus to aid its movement during birth. Practice makes perfect - One key role for prenatal activity is to practise behaviours that are essential for survival after birth; for example, fetal breathing movements. These begin at 9–10 weeks and occur around 30 per cent of the time at 30 weeks (Patrick et al., 1980). Although there is no air in the womb these breathing movements help the neural pathways responsible for breathing to mature, ensuring a fully operational system when required at the moment of birth. Forming joints and muscles - The movements of the fetus are essential for the formation of the joints and muscle tone (Drachman & Sokoloff, 1966). Initially, the joints develop with rough surfaces; but as the fetus moves, the joints are reshaped and develop their smooth surfaces to enable complete mobility. Absence of movement in joints has been linked to malformation, (e.g. club foot). Getting ready for the breast - Prenatal olfactory learning may facilitate the establishment of breast-feeding. Although alternatives exist to breastfeeding today, in the evolution of the mother/fetus/newborn biological system alternatives to breast-feeding were not available. If the individual was to survive its only source of nourishment in the immediate postnatal period was breast milk. The same processes that flavor the mother’s breast milk also flavour the amniotic fluid, so the fetus may learn about the flavor of breast milk from swallowing amniotic fluid. Mothers whose diet changes across the birth period have much more difficulty in establishing breast-feeding than mothers whose diet remains the same. Attachment - The ability of the fetus to recognize its mother’s voice and smell may be important for the processes of attachment and exploration. While the newborn has a rudimentary sensory system able to process auditory and chemosensory information, and to a lesser extent visual information, it knows nothing about its environment. Imagine yourself with sensory systems able to process information but in which nothing is familiar – disorientation indeed. It would make good sense for the newborn to be able to recognise one familiar object in this sensory milieu, and even better sense if this object is its mother and primary caregiver. Recognition by sound and smell are also advantageous as they operate remotely; that is, the mother may be out of visual contact with her baby but the baby can hear and smell her over some distance, providing a familiar recognizable cue in the newborn’s environment. Language - Experience with speech sounds in the womb may begin the process of language acquisition (Moon & Fifer, 2000). Newborns recognize and prefer their mother’s language, and are able to discriminate this from an unfamiliar language (Moon et al., 1993). Recordings from the womb reveal that speech sounds clearly emerge from the background noise (Querleu et al., 1988). This exposure may be the beginning of language acquisition. Boosting brain cells - At a more general level, experience during the prenatal period may be important, or even essential, for normal development, especially of the brain. It is well established that the nervous system develops in response to the experiences it receives and from activity generated within the system (Lagercrantz & Ringstedt, 2001). The prenatal period marks the most rapid period of development of our brain. At its peak some 250,000 brain cells are being produced every minute. The normal prenatal environment (of changing sensory information, fetal activity and reactivity) may provide necessary and essential stimulation for the formation of the CNS and subsequently its function.

The sole purpose of these blogs is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, prevention or cure of any disease. If you have any serious, acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained doctor/health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained Ayurvedic expert, call us or e mail.
Dr Unnati Chavda
(Promoting pregnancy wellness)