You might think your kid has it easy in utero, just chillin’ and growin’ limbs in some cozy womb hammock, but research suggests it might not be as peaceful as you’d think. First of all, there is no such thing as a “womb hammock” and frankly, it’s a gross image. Second of all, your kid is actually riding the emotional waves roiling in your partner’s limbic system.
If you think it’s implausible that your unborn critter is feeling emotions, listen to Dr. Thomas Verny, the dude who founded the Association For Prenatal And Perinatal Psychology And Health. His take is that a mother’s emotions can cross into the womb “as surely as alcohol and nicotine,” which blows because she’s totally bummed she can’t have a martini right now.
A fascinating 2010 study from Japan actually backs up Verny’s assertion. The researchers worked with two sets of pregnant mothers. One set watched a clip from the end of 1979’s The Champ wherein a kid’s dad dies after a boxing match (spoiler alert) and … Oh, holy crap, man … you’ve got something in you eye. The second (luckier?) batch of ladies watched a clip of Julie Andrews’ joyful frolicking in The Sound of Music. What’s more, both sets of moms listened to the clips through headphones to isolate the soundtrack from their occupied wombs.
The results? The fetuses of the moms who were were digging on Andrews were more active, presumably grooving around the womb with glee. On the other hand, the unborn of the moms watching little Ricky Schroder lose his shit after the death of the champ were much more still and subdued. Based on the results, researchers theorized that the prenatal emotions were giving the babies all the feels.
So What If She Gets Sad?
Well, here’s the thing: doctors have long come to the conclusion that prolonged prenatal stress can cause low birth weights, premature births and even future emotional problems in the kid. Stressed dads can result in the same outcome. So it’s quite likely that other parts of the mother’s emotional life could have an impact on fetal development. That means that it could be possible for sadness to depress development, but also opens the door for happiness and positivity to increase the well-being and development of the kid.
That said, the last thing either of you need is to be stressed about every single little emotion that pops up during the day. The odd crying jag isn’t going ruin anything. The key is to focus on happiness in order to begin bonding with your unborn kid.
While there are some who doubt that emotions can cross the placenta, everyone agrees that hormones absolutely can. Moms given the time and space to focus on positive baby development and mindfulness have happier, healthier kids.
Your job? Do your best to help make her environment one of low stress and happiness. And maybe lay off The Notebook for awhile … Which, yeah, is going to be an extraordinary chore for you.