The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Babies know mum’s touch even before they’re born

- By Richard Gray

A MOTHER’S touch is often said to be crucial in helping her bond with her child, but new research suggests babies may even be able to recognise it while still in the womb.

Unborn infants have been recorded reaching out to touch the wall of the uterus in response to their mother caressing her bump during pregnancy.

Using three-dimensiona­l ultrasound videos, scientists were able to watch how unborn children reacted to different people touching their mother’s abdomen.

The strongest response came when a mother rubbed her own stomach compared to when a stranger or the child’s father did, suggesting the infant recognised who was involved.

Oddly, the unborn babies responded more to a stranger’s touch than their father’s. It may also explain why mothers often feel their babies moving when they touch their stomach but someone else might not detect any motion.

The researcher­s say the unborn babies were particular­ly responsive in the final three months of pregnancy, suggesting a key period for developmen­t of a child’s self-awareness.

Dr Viola Marx, a psychologi­st at the University of Dundee, was the lead author of the study, published in the journal Infant Behaviour And Developmen­t.

She said: ‘Mothers spontaneou­sly and also intentiona­lly touch their abdomen during pregnancy, often to communicat­e with the foetus. ‘Any stimulatio­n can be beneficial to the developmen­t of the foetus and bonding of the mother, father and the foetus. ‘To understand the meaning of the behaviour of the foetus in response to touch needs further research.’ Dr Marx said previous research showed unborn babies also respond when their mother talks to them, helping them to recognise her voice after birth.

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