This is really interesting..!! The fetus can learn and memorize a few things which makes the life easy once fetus is out of the womb.
Prenatal intelligence and memory were not a part of research until 1970s. Till then fetus was considered as blind and deaf and no body ever imagined that fetus could gather information while in the womb. Even doctors did not care about using anesthetics while dealing with fetuses.
But the insight into the developmental aspects of embryo have changed the whole perspective of these things. There are strong evidences that fetus can hear,smell and even memorize the information it receives.
In an experiment women were allowed to hear an opera song throughout their pregnancy periods. Then, when the researchers analyzed the response of the babies of these women to the same song which their mothers heard during pregnancy researchers were amazed to see that they became calm and relaxed. But the babies of women who never heard the song during their pregnancy started crying or were did not respond at all.
According to one scientist “fetus is bathing in mothers sound”. Scientists analyzed that fetus can hear very loud sounds from outside. It can clearly hear mother;s sound. The vibrations of mother’s sound propagate through mother’s bones and cartilages to amniotic fluid and finally reach fetus ear. Fetus can therefor distinguish mother’s voice from other voices. In another experiment, an audio recorder was attached to a nipple and babies were allowed to suck it. Baby can suck and hear a sound after that. Researchers observed that they sucked more when an audio of their mother’s sound was played. Fetus can, during the final stages of pregnancy grasp even a whole word!
Fetus is largely influenced by its mothers physiological and psychological conditions during pregnancy. Regarding the influence of song, it is not what the mothers hear during pregnancy but what enjoyment she drives from doing that which shapes the baby’s immediate response. An example is that babies of mothers who liked rock songs but forced to hear classical songs during their pregnancy completely lost interest in classical songs!
Studies suggest that a little stress is important to fetus. When mothers get stressed during their pregnancy, it is reflected in fetus too. The hormone, cortisol circulates in the blood and reaches fetus by crossing placenta. Little of this makes the fetus bold and strong in later life, but too much of this makes the fetus extra cautious and may even lead to behavioral problems like ADHD (Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder).
Fetus can smell too. The most prominent smell it can distinguish is the smell of breast milk. But when the mother eats some food, the aroma reaches the fetus nose and stimulate its olfactory system. Fetus models its intestines and stomach according to the quantity of food the mother takes during pregnancy
But there is a word of caution. This ability of fetus to memorize and recall things should not be overrated. These are just a way of getting the “Sneak Peak ” into the world outside so that for fetus the new world not be too overwhelming once it gets out of its first home. Researchers hope that understanding more and more of these mechanism will help them uncover the mysteries about the fetus development.
Reference: GEO magazine April 2010