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Music and Sounds in the Womb

Asa Jomard |25, May 2009


Have you ever wondered what it sounds like inside the womb? Listening to a CD with natural womb sounds, the sounds of heartbeats and relaxing arias might give you some idea. Putting your ears against a friend's stomach is another way of entering the sound world of the womb. A baby lives in a stimulating world filled with sounds, motions and vibrations, and the first sounds a baby hears are the rhythmic, natural sounds of heartbeat, blood circulating, and the whoosh of amniotic fluid.

Hearing in the womb

The ear begins to develop during the third week and at twenty weeks a baby's ear resembles an adult's in shape and size. Four weeks later the hearing is fully developed, and a baby can hear voices, music and other sounds outside the womb. The sounds in the womb are muffled, but the melody and rhythm of music are not much altered. A baby's brain registers rhythmic patterns, and changes in beat and melody are picked up. Certain frequencies travel through the fluid better than others, and low frequencies will reach the womb without any problems. Music with lots of bass and percussion instruments are a good choice if you want to make sure that your baby can hear the music.

The sound of mother's and father's voices

For centuries, mothers have sung lullabies to not only their newborn babies but also to their unborn babies. A mother's voice comes to the womb through her own body and it is stronger, richer and less distorted when it reaches the baby than outside sounds. Many sounds and noises travel to the inner ear through vibrations in the baby's skull.

A newborn baby may show preference for their mother's voice, but a father's deeper voice travels well through water. If the father talks or sings to the unborn baby on a regular basis, the baby will later recognize the voice.

Music and Learning

Listening to music can enhance a baby's life in the womb by stimulating the ear, brain, and body. Music is an important form of communication which prepares the baby for later learning in life. A foundation for sound and language comprehension is laid. Listening to music and singing is a healthy and wonderful way to stimulate a baby's development.

Babies develop prenatal memories, and they recognize and prefer music and songs that they have heard in the womb. The sense of familiarity has a soothing effect, and it may help to calm a crying newborn. Familiar music might make a newborn baby suck more intensively, or move their body more. The sound of oceans and water may also have a calming effect since they resemble the sounds in the womb.

Choice of music

The mothers' reaction and mood may influence a baby more than certain style of music. The emotional qualities are communicated to the baby, and a baby will pick up the happy, relaxed and calm state. Research suggests that the prenatal musical memory is the same for different types of music. There is no evidence to suggest that playing classical music is more beneficial, and a baby's memory for R&B is as strong as for the memory Vivaldi or Bach.

The pace of the music seems to be more important than the music style, and the music does not have to be slow. But beats that are random rather than rhythmic and sudden shifts in volume may startle a baby. Try playing different kinds of music and see how your baby reacts. Does your baby kick faster when you play quicker music? Does your baby calm down when you play certain music?

Ways of sharing music

Listening to music is a pleasant and effective way to relax and though musical over stimulation will not physically harm, it may make a baby feel overwhelmed. A baby's heart rate and breathing pattern changes according to the beats. Listening to rapid beats for a long period may be a stressful experience.

Playing background music is one way of listening to music together. You can also place the headphones directly to the abdomen, but this listening session should be limited. The best advice is to monitor what the baby is doing, and not to play for more than hour or two a day. An over-stimulated baby will stop reacting, and a baby's sleeping pattern might be disturbed by too much stimulation. Remember to check the volume before placing headphones on the abdomen.

Relax and Enjoy

Playing music when you want to relax is a wonderful way of using music. Take time to sit quietly and invite your baby to a concert in the womb. Singing and listening to music is a beautiful way to begin your relationship with your baby. And it may provide you with a good tool to use when the baby is born, the same songs and tunes may soothe a newborn baby faster. Happy and blissful listening!

Asa Jomard is a freelance writer, with degrees in Psychology and Counseling. She enjoys gardening, star watching, playing with her dog and cat, and listening to music. She has a teen aged daughter.

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Guest Feb 20, 2018 02:52:19 PM ET

I was looking for articles which could explain how babies can hear in the womb considering the fact that sound doesn't travel in water.This post has somewhat relieved me of my curiosity. Thanks..

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Guest Dec 9, 2014 03:44:06 PM ET

This is perfect. It really helped me. :)

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Jessica Sep 16, 2009 04:14:17 AM ET

This is a wonderful article. I enjoyed it so much, that I shared it with my college students in our Child Development: Birth to Adolescence class. Thank you!

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