Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

3 amazing things your baby is learning in the womb

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Newest study reveals babies learn their mother's native language in the womb

Researchers have discovered for the first time that babies in the womb learn to recognize their mother's native language when they develop hearing at 30 weeks gestation.

Scientists at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington tested baby’s that were just hours old to find out they can recognize language much sooner than was previously known.

Scientists discovered babies know more than previously thought when they observed newborns listening to vowel sounds in their native tongue and a foreign language in the nursery.

“The mother has first dibs on influencing the child’s brain,” says Patricia Kuhl, co-author of the study. The vowel sounds in her speech are the loudest units and the fetus locks onto them.”

Forty infant boys and girls, about 30 hours old, were studied in Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.

The researchers looked at how longer the infants sucked on a pacifier when they were exposed to different sounds.

The study authors explain sucking is an indicator of learning that shows infants can differentiate between sounds heard in the womb.

The finding came as a surprise because it was thought that infants learn language in the first six-months of life. There wasn’t any evidence to show language is learned in the womb.

“This is the first study that shows fetuses learn prenatally about the particular speech sounds of a mother’s language,” said Christine Moon, lead author and a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. “This study moves the measurable result of experience with speech sounds from six months of age to before birth.”

Babies in the womb sense mom’s feelings

A study published November 2011 showed babies in the womb can also sense their mother’s emotions.

Researchers know what a pregnant mother eats, toxins introduce by smoking and medicines can impact how your baby will develop.

Scientists at University of California-Irvine discovered babies can sense their mother’s emotional state before they’re even born. The researchers said the study showed the importance of maintaining positive emotions and consistency during pregnancy.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

In their study, they found infants born to mothers who were depressed early in pregnancy were slower to develop. The reverse was also true – a happy pregnancy was associated with normal growth and development.

The study also highlighted the need for screening pregnant women for depression that can impact your baby’s health in the same way as a poor diet or smoking.

Fetuses can taste what their mothers’ eat

Another remarkable finding from 2001 is that your baby can ‘’taste’ what you eat during pregnancy when they begin to ‘gulp’ amniotic fluid in the womb.

The study showed that infants had a preference for foods they ‘tasted’ in the womb and consumed by mom.

For instance, babies of women given carrot juice when they were pregnant preferred eating cereal made with the juice as opposed to showing a preference for cereal mixed with water.

The take home message from the study is that it’s important to eat a variety of healthful foods; especially fruits and vegetables during pregnancy to help your baby develop a taste for the beneficial foods.

The newest study adds to growing evidence that babies absorb more than we knew while they’re still in the womb.

Your unborn baby knows how you feel and learns to enjoy the foods you’re eating during pregnancy, found in past studies. Now we know they can even recognize their mother’s native language in the womb.


Washington State University
January 2, 2013

American Psychological Society
November 9, 2011

June 1, 2001

Image credit: Morguefile



I wonder if the anti depressant use in pregnant women influences this ability to recognize mother's native language! Would prescription drug use by the mother be recognized as well? Could this set the scene for drug use by the child in the future?
It would depend on what can get into amniotic fluid. Food and drugs would be metabolized and excreted differently, correct?
A lot of things can pass the placental barrier. Alcohol, tobacco and drugs are just a few. Whether food and drugs would be metabolized and excreted differently depends on allergic reactions of both mother and fetus. As you know, in an allergic reaction the immune system is activated rather than the digestive system. This can lead to both under developed immunity and undigested foods and drugs in the blood of mother and baby. This creates toxicity in both which lead to other health problems. Toxicity can certainly enter the amniotic fluid What an awful way to start life!