1. Effect of Prenatal Stress
Recent scientific research using large populations in the area of prenatal influences on the fetus have shown that high stress levels of the mother during pregnancy negatively impact the child’s early behavior and its ability to adapt to its new surroundings.
Anja Huizink’s doctoral study titled Prenatal Stress and Its Effect on Infant Development tested 170 first-time mothers three times during pregnancy and also periodically during the first eight months of the babies’ lives. She concluded that, when the mothers suffered elevated levels of anxiety during pregnancy, the children had adaptational and behavioral problems within that time frame.
Psychologist Vivette Glover of Imperial College, London studied 7,000 mothers and babies to determine the impact of increased maternal anxiety on the children at four years of age. She found that the children of mothers subjected to high levels of anxiety during pregnancy showed twice as many behavioral issues and signs of depression and anxiety as the children of non-stressed women.
2. Language Learning
A 2006 study published in Italy of 58 pregnant women beginning in the third trimester examined the language development and communication skills of the babies at 18 months of age. The babies heard a variety of sounds, but the most significant ones related to language development were correlated with how many times the mothers directly and deliberately spoke to the fetus.
It was found that babies to whom their mothers spoke three times or more a day were able to understand more nouns, verbs, questions, etc. than the babies who heard from their mothers just once a day. They also showed better communication skills. Daily communication by the mother directly with the fetus has been shown to have a significant impact on the linguistic competence of the baby.
3. Exposure to a Movie
At the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney, Australia, Professor Inez Bacelo Correia studied 60 pregnant women when they were 36 and 38 weeks pregnant, during a two-hour ultrasound examination. The women were assigned to four groups, the first three of which watched a 20-minute emotional segment of the popular film Sophie’s Choice. The fetuses were continually monitored in their state of active sleep. The babies of the group that watched the segment showed significant changes in their motor and heart activities. The babies of the remaining group that watched a different, serene film did not show any reaction whatsoever. The study proves that babies at full term have a developed ability to respond to the emotional stimuli of their mothers.