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Babies 'anticipate touch from womb'

10 October 2013 09:19

University psychologists claim that late-stage foetuses can anticipate movement of their own hands touching their face

University psychologists claim that late-stage foetuses can anticipate movement of their own hands touching their face

Research has indicated that foetuses are able to sense the movement of their hands and anticipate them touching their face.

A late-stage foetus is able to predict their own hand movements towards their mouth, rather than just react to them, psychologists claim.

No difference was noted between female and male foetuses, they said.

Their findings may help better understand how babies develop once born, especially those born prematurely.

It could also shed light on how prepared babies are for social interaction as they grow, as well as how they are able to calm themselves by sucking on a thumb or fingers.

The news will be met with excitement by expectant mums, who are reminded of the importance of pregnancy travel insurance if they're planning a trip before the big day.

The psychologists, working out of Durham and Lancaster universities, scanned 15 healthy foetuses every month between 24 and 36-weeks-old.

They used 3D imaging techniques to build a picture of what life may be like inside the womb, using 60 scans in total.

Eight female and seven male foetuses were used in the research.

Lead psychologist Nadja Reissland, at Durham University, said: "Increased touching of the lower part of the face and mouth in foetuses could be an indicator of brain development necessary for healthy development including preparedness for social interaction, self-soothing and feeding.

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

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

Lancaster University professor of social statistics Brian Francis said: "This effect is likely to be evolutionally determined, preparing the child for life outside the womb.

"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."