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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

10/8/2013 (6 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Touching face while still in the womb indicate child's psychological, physical development

Children learn how to anticipate touch while in the womb. Psychologists have discovered that children in the womb are able to predict, rather than react to, their own hand movements towards their mouths as they entered the later stages of gestation compared to earlier in a pregnancy. How the child touches their face and head can be an indicator of how well they are developing physically and psychologically prior to birth.

Researchers believe recent findings could improve understanding about babies, especially those that are born prematurely.

Researchers believe recent findings could improve understanding about babies, especially those that are born prematurely.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

10/8/2013 (6 months ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: Fetus, baby, in womb, development, mouths, fingers


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers believe recent findings could improve understanding about babies, especially those that are born prematurely. The new findings indicate that these actions help them to interact socially and their ability to calm themselves by sucking on their thumb or fingers.

The results could also be a potential indicator of how prepared babies are for feeding.

The 32 week-old fetus begins by parting their lips in the anticipation of touching their mouth area

The 32 week-old fetus begins by parting their lips in the anticipation of touching their mouth area with a limb then the fetus begins to stretch open its mouth, below.



Scientists believe anticipation is a key marker in a healthy baby's development and it could be a sign of illness if babies don't do it by certain points of the pregnancy.

The ability to anticipate touch and move with intention, such as opening the mouth to suck has developed when a baby ready to leave the safety of the womb, they added.

As the apex of the mouth stretch is reached, the left hand begins to come up towards the mouth (pict

As the apex of the mouth stretch is reached, the left hand begins to come up towards the mouth (pictured left) In the right-hand scan, the mouth stretch gets wider as the fetus anticipates a touch of the mouth area (pictured below). The fetus is pictured at 32 weeks.


"Increased touching of the lower part of the face and mouth in fetuses could be an indicator of brain development necessary for healthy development, including preparedness for social interaction, self-soothing and feeding," Psychologist Dr Nadja Reissland says.

A previous study found babies make faces in the womb, potentially as practice before coming in to the world.

As the apex of the mouth stretch is reached, the 32 week-old fetus lifts its hand and begins to inse

As the apex of the mouth stretch is reached, the 32 week-old fetus lifts its hand and begins to insert it into its mouth (pictured left) and then touches its lips with its left hand (below).



Reissland along with researchers from Durham University and Lancaster University used "4D" ultrasound scans, which are 3D scans that can be seen in real time to image eight girls and seven boys once a month between the 24th and 36th week of pregnancy. Both boys and girls showed the same rate of development.

In the earlier stage of gestation, researchers saw babies touch the upper part and sides of their heads, although later on they began to touch the the lower, more sensitive, part of their faces and mouths.

After 36 weeks, the majority of babies were seen opening their mouths before they touched them, which scientists say is a sign that they were anticipating touch. In healthy fetuses, sensitivity of the area around their mouths increases as they develop, which could mean they have increased awareness of mouth movement.

Scientists believe that moving in sequence, opening mouths before sucking on a finger or thumb, shows intention is developing in the fetuses.

"What we have observed are sequential events, which show maturation in the development of fetuses, which is the basis for life after birth," Reissland says.

"The findings could provide more information about when babies are ready to engage with their environment, especially if born prematurely."

This may also explain as to why some babies are more ready to interact socially and their ability to calm themselves by sucking on their thumbs and fingers.

"Building on these findings, future research could lead to more understanding about how the child is prepared prenatally for life, including their ability to engage with their social environment, regulate stimulation and being ready to take a breast or bottle."

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