Have you ever stopped to think about what your unborn baby can see, hear or even feel? Or perhaps you have often thought about how boring it must be to be confined to such a small space for a long time. Well, all five senses come into play while your baby is still in utero, obviously the senses are going to be different than what we are used to.
Sight- Baby’s eyes start to develop brain tissue for the the optic nerves at week 4. By week 8, the eyes start to form, and by 26 weeks (almost the end of second trimester), the eyes are fully developed. These little eyes are able to sense light and they eye lids can even open. While he/she isn’t seeing much in the womb, if you shine a flashlight over your belly, you might get a kick or a punch to that spot.
Hearing- Hearing starts to form around 6 weeks of pregnancy and by 16 weeks, your baby should be able to hear. Around 24 weeks, baby will be able to move his/hear head to sounds and voices. The sounds baby hears are muffled as they are traveling though lots of fluid, but baby is still able to make out certain songs and voices. Did you know, your voice will be soothing to baby, because he/she has heard you the loudest? How cool is that!
Touch- This is the first sense that is developed for baby. Before he/she can hear, or taste or see, he/she is able to feel. This sense is a survival instinct and will pull away from things that feel uncomfortable, cold or sharp, and huddle closer to objects that feel soft and warm (like you mom). Touch starts around week 8 and baby can feel his/her face receptors. Mainly the lips and nose. This continues until week 32 when baby will be able to feel the touch sensation on their whole body.
Taste- Starting around week 8, your baby’s taste receptors are stating to work. He/she can taste sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami. By week 16 baby is able to start tasting some amniotic fluid, and will let you know if he/she likes what you are eating. By 21 weeks, your baby is swallowing several ounces of amniotic fluid a day. Some study have shown that what you eat when pregnant can have a positive or negative effect on baby when he/she starts eating real foods. If you eat a lot of junk food, baby may not want the healthy food such as fruits and veggies. Make sure you switch it up.
Smell- The sense of smell begins between 7-8 weeks of pregnancy and by 10-12 weeks, olfactory smell receptors form. By 19 weeks, your baby will be able to distinguish scents such as spicy or sweet, and will send those messages to baby’s brain. Experts believe fetuses may be able to start smelling — i.e. reacting to the chemicals they breathe in through their noses — in the womb as early as month 6, though the sense really ramps up during months 8 and 9 of pregnancy.
So, your baby may not be able to do a lot, but they are doing a lot of growing to prepare for their time in the real world!