Messages from Mom in the Womb (Oy, please!)

Usually, the geeks and nerdlings over at provide us with tons of harmless fun regarding newsworthy items or just plain old-fashioned odd goings-on in the science biz.

This one, however, I found a bit unsettling…

Can Fetus Sense Mother’s Psychological State? Study Suggests Yes!

(Fetus desperately trying to put Mom on Call-Block)

Well, isn’t that just flippin’ lovely?

The depressing article intones, “As a fetus grows, it’s constantly getting messages from its mother. It’s not just hearing her heartbeat and whatever music she might play to her belly; it also gets chemical signals through the placenta. A new study… finds that this includes signals about the mother’s mental state. If the mother is depressed, that affects how the baby develops after it’s born.”

Talk about child abuse. It’s like having your mother hardwired onto your Facebook page… and you can’t defriend her!! What an amniotic nightmare!! Not only does the little tot have to put up with Mom’s horrid taste in music, it also gets a live in utero feed of her feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts and compulsive acts in addition to her non-stop internal monologue of physical complaints. Oh, the prenatal horror!

(Please make her stop. I’m not even born yet and she’s driving me nuts!)

According to the study [1], what really mattered to the pregnancy prisoners was the consistency of the environment before and after birth. That is, the babies who did best were those who either had mothers who were healthy both before and after birth, and those whose mothers were depressed before birth and stayed depressed afterward. What slowed the babies’ development was changing conditions – a mother who went from depressed before birth to healthy after or healthy before birth to depressed after.

Now, I already know what you’re thinking. If the mother’s a basket case before birth, the baby’s better off if we allow Mom to continue being loopy after childbirth. Not so, according to Mr Sandman.

“A more reasonable approach would be, to treat women who present with prenatal depression,” Sandman says. “We know how to deal with depression.”

The problem is, women are rarely screened for depression before birth, now… are they, Carl?

(If she’s the wacko loonie who’s waiting for me, I’m not coming out!)

In other words, you need a licence to own a dog but any psycho wingnut can have as many babies as she can pump out.

The scientists who authored this study do leave us with one positive reaffirming note in this sad symphony.

“We believe that the human fetus is an active participant in its own development and is collecting information for life after birth,” Sandman says. “It’s preparing for life based on messages the mom is providing.”

Sadly, the messages she is providing often consist of variations on the theme, “Your Mom doesn’t quite have both oars in the water, sweetie!”


[1]  The study on how the mother’s psychological state affects a developing fetus entitled, “Prescient Human Fetuses Thrive” was compiled by Curt A. Sandman, Elysia P. Davis, and Laura M. Glynn of the University of California-Irvine and will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


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