Even with the many advances in ultrasound technology, there is still a great deal of mystery about what your baby's life in the womb is really like. It's no wonder many moms-to-be feel a close bond with the growing baby. But it's also intriguing to think about just how deep that bond can go. For instance, can babies feel your emotions in the womb?
This is one of those seemingly simple questions that can get complex in a hurry. Are you considering fleeting feelings of joy or frustration? Along those lines, would you consider conditions such as depression or anxiety a type of emotion? Depending on how you define the parameters, the possibility of a shared emotional life between a mother and growing fetus can get mind-blowing.
Because we can't ask babies about their lives in the womb, researchers have had to come up with some innovative ways to gauge the emotional responses of fetuses to their mother's emotions. For instance, a 2010 study in New Scientist had expectant mothers watch emotional clips from movies. In this case, when moms watched a happy clip from The Sound of Music, their babies moved their arms around a lot. Conversely, when moms watched a sad clip from The Champ, the babies were reportedly a lot more still, as further explained by New Scientist. It looks like the mother's emotions had at least some effect on the babies.
On a more serious note, babies may also pick up on heavier emotions. For instance, if a mother-to-be struggles with anxiety or depression, then the condition may affect her baby's development even after birth, as noted by Psychological Science. (The full range of these effects are still being studied.) Additionally, another study from Psychological Science showed that a mother's stress may be contagious to her infant. It seems as though, on some level, mothers are feeling for two.
With that in mind, what exactly are expectant mothers supposed to do with this information? It isn't as though you can retreat to a stress-free private island for the duration of your pregnancy; you still have to operate in the real world. For starters, if you suspect you're dealing with depression or anxiety, then don't hesitate to seek support. And learning how to destress more effectively, even as you prepare to cope with parenting stress, could also be beneficial to both you and baby. But beyond that, you can't be expected to have only delightful emotions until your child is born. You can't censor your own feelings. On the flip side, it's perfectly fine to hope your baby feels the tremendous love you already share.