Emotional Health Begins In the Womb

By Walter Taylor, M.A.,LMFT

Parenting - emotional foundations

Every communication and interaction with your unborn baby has an impact. PHOTO BY STUART MILES/FREEDIGITALPHOTOS.NET

Our experiences in the womb, during birth, and as young babies set in motion physical, mental, emotional and relational patterns that can have a profound and lifelong impact. Babies in the womb are conscious and aware of – and respond to – the outside world.

So, how do we communicate with our “inside babies”? According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of Silent Messages, 70 to 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. Why not give that a try? With actions, body language, tone of voice and words you can have affectionate and loving communication with your unborn baby.

The Impact of Communication

A nurse I know once got tired of a father yelling at his pregnant spouse in the hospital. The nurse instructed the father to watch the baby on the sonogram monitor, get close to his wife’s belly and yell. The baby jumped in fear. This example was all the father needed to see the impact of his behavior on his unborn child.

I also know several birth professionals who have seen babies whose mothers were experiencing stress turn right-side-up in the womb, as if they wanted to help protect the mother’s heart. When the mother’s stress levels went down, the inside baby returned to a normal, comfortable position.

On a more positive note, I know of a father who read Dr. Seuss to his unborn baby every night during his wife’s pregnancy. One night he came home exhausted from work, and his wife told him to go to bed without reading a story. In a little while, she woke him up, saying, “The kid is going crazy, you need to read him a story.” The baby’s activity in the womb showed he was upset. The father read the bedtime story, the child calmed down and all were able to go back to bed.

The Brain-Emotion Connection

Research has shown that a mother’s emotional state has an impact on her child’s brain development. A stressed mother will make a stressed baby, because nature prepares the unborn baby to live in the world where the mother lives. An unborn baby building its brain and body takes its cues from the mother, asking, “Is this a dangerous world where mothers and fathers do not have time to be affectionate and communicate with the me, or is this a world where they do?” The baby’s brain is built accordingly.

We can make an action plan based on this information. Whether you are the mother or someone close to the unborn baby, spend as much time as possible just being with the baby in a loving way. The more loving interactions the unborn baby has, the more secure and healthy he or she will be. Some doulas, midwives and prenatal specialists even have games you can play with your unborn baby.

Understanding the aliveness, playfulness and awareness of babies in the womb opens up worlds of possibilities for communicating. If it has never occurred to you to talk with your unborn baby, then become quiet and silently connect. From such a simple yet powerful practice, you may then open yourself to more ways to connect with and nurture your developing child. This means more joy for both you and your child, and a better foundation of emotional well-being.

Walter Taylor M.A.,LMFT, has worked with children for more than 30 years, and been a member of Association for Pre & Perinatal Psychology And Health for more than 10 years. Reach him at philaret1746@yahoo.com or visit him online at www.wttherapy.com.

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