Does music affect fetal development?

(January 14, 2010)

The ears of the fetus develop during the second trimester which is between week 13 and week 25 (counting from the first day of the last menstrual period). The ability to hear is enhanced during the third trimester post week 26 until birth. The amniotic fluid is a very good conductor of sound, all liquids being good conductors of sound, the amniotic fluid acts as an amplifier to the fetus allowing it to hear the sounds of its mother and that of the outside world. Studies have found that the amniotic fluid amplifies low pitched sounds a little and also dampens higher pitches.  

The fetus reacts to sounds by moving and is said to be comforted by the mothers heartbeat and sound of her voice. It is also said that a baby remembers and prefers music heard during fetal development. Some researchers claim that the heartbeat and breathing of the fetus has been found to alter to match the rhythm of the music being played. Some pregnant women also feel the fetus move to the sound of their voice. However, there is no scientific evidence of supporting the effect of music, positive or otherwise, on fetal development.  

Theoretically music affects the fetal development with enhanced attention span, increased cognitive development, sharper language skills and improved sleep patterns. However, as stated earlier, there is a lack of scientific evidence supporting such kind of claims. Various products available today claim positive effects of music on the fetal development based purely on anecdotes. Though several Doctors state that the fetal reactions to music may in fact be due to discomfort caused by the sounds instead. This is despite studies and research showing positive results in response to music  by plants and animals. Inability to observe the fetus closely before birth has made it very difficult for scientists to determine the effect of music on its development.

That said, music can be played in moderation for the enjoyment of the mother and not to make the baby smarter. Playing music will relax the pregnant woman, lift up her mood and also help her sleep well. It is best to avoid long sessions and loud music like heavy metal or music with sudden changes in pitch that may possibly hurt or startle the fetus. Experts suggest though that listening to suitable music at a low volume will help the pregnant woman relax and thus the fetus to relax as well.  

Submitted by P T on January 14, 2010 at 08:29

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