TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - By Bethany Kyle/Tucson News Now Intern
New research suggests that a mother's touch elicits a greater response from a fetus than her voice does when mothers communicate with unborn babies.
A study published in PLOS ONE, a journal of science and medicine research, researched which of a mother's actions are more likely to cause the fetus to respond: a mother's touch, voice, or nothing.
23 healthy pregnant women who were between their 21st and 33rd week of gestation participated in the study.
Each woman was put in a dark room and tried the three behaviors being tested. In one room, mothers read children's books aloud. In a second, mothers rubbed their abdomen. In the final control room, they laid silent with their arms at their sides. In each, the fetus' responses were tracked by ultrasound.
The study found that the fetuses had more arm, head, and mouth movements when mothers were rubbing their bellies over when they were talking or doing nothing.
The researchers suggest that these movements are intentional and in response to the mother's movements:
"Although it is speculative to suggest, it might well be that the increases in arm movements in response to maternal touch are also directed responses towards the source of the stimulation."
These responses from the fetuses were also more likely in the 3rd trimester than the 2nd. This, the researchers suggest, is because the skin of the fetuses becomes increasingly more sensitive as pregnancy progresses.
Definitive conclusions cannot be made from the study because of its small sample size. The research does add to the findings that when mothers communicate with their unborn babies it is positive for the baby.