Did you know that studies have found that babies appear to cry in the womb from as early as 28 weeks?

As you battle the heartburn, bloating and swollen ankles, here’s what your unborn baby is getting up to in the womb.

1. Your baby is acquiring a taste for life

Certain foods you eat can be detected in your amniotic fluid. Research shows that strong flavours, such as garlic, anise and ginger; and sweet flavours, are all known to change the flavour of amniotic fluid.

From as early as 15 weeks, your baby starts to show a preference for sweeter food – swallowing more amniotic fluid when it’s sweet and less when it is more bitter. She will also have hiccups. These start during the first trimester, although you may only feel them later in your pregnancy.

Research, published in Pediatrics, has found that the foods you eat can influence your baby’s later food preferences, so the more variety of fresh foods you eat, the more likely your baby will enjoy these when she is older.

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2. She drinks her own pee

By the end of the first trimester, your baby starts producing urine. Of course, there is nowhere for this pee to go, except into the amniotic fluid. This is then swallowed, digested, goes through the kidneys, and the process is repeated. And while this may sound truly gross – this pee is completely sterile and does your baby no harm.

3. Your baby opens her eyes (but has a dim view of the world)

Her view may be limited, but your baby opens her eyes from around 28 weeks and can distinguish light from dark. Babies can detect light from around week 16, but their eyes are not recognisable as such until around week 20. From week 28, research has shown that babies blink and open their eyes.

Often your baby will respond with a flutter of activity to bright sources of light, such as sunlight, or a flashlight pointed at your belly. It is believed that that this appears to be like a dull red glow to your baby’s blurry vision.

4. You never know who is listening…

Your baby’s inner ear structures have formed by 16 weeks, allowing her to hear sound. By 24 weeks, the cochlea, eardrum, ossicles and the rest of the important ear structures have formed. From here on, your baby can hear your heartbeat, as well as you eating, breathing, walking, exercising, and even your digestive system working.

Best of all, your baby can hear you talking. There is some evidence that your baby learns to recognise your voice in the womb, and having your partner talk or read to your belly, will help your baby bond post-birth as well. Research, published in the Women and Birth Journal, has found that singing to your unborn baby is one of the best ways of ensuring a happy and contented newborn. A study of 160 women found that those who sang lullabies during pregnancy and post birth, had babies who soothed easier and spent less time crying.

Which is a good thing, because…

From as early as 15 weeks, your baby starts to show a preference for sweeter food

5. Your unborn baby cries

Studies have found that babies appear to cry in the womb from as early as 28 weeks.  Researchers at Carolinas Medical Centre in the US came across this by chance while investigating the effects of tobacco and cocaine exposure on babies’ responses to vibroacoustic stimulation. Their ultrasound and video recordings showed babies startling, opening their mouths and gasping, with quivering chins.

6. Your baby smiles

While your baby may cry, she smiles as well. Through 4D scans, sonographers have found that babies start practising that gummy smile from around week 28.

7. She breathes

The umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline, providing her with the oxygen she needs while developing in utero. However, from nine weeks, she starts practising her breathing by going through the motions. Her first real breath happens post birth, triggered by the change of temperature and environment as she enters the world.

8. Your baby plays with her umbilical cord

If you think about it, from around 28 to 30 weeks, her eyes are open, she can hear, and she has arms and legs – so why wouldn’t she want to play? The only “toy” available to her is her umbilical cord. Ultrasounds have found that babies tend to clutch onto their umbilical cords, “playing” with them. Researchers have found that in some cases, this reflex results in the baby briefly cutting off their oxygen supply, and they may even “pass out” from this natural “high”. But don’t worry, this exploring of her environment is completely normal.

Kim Bell is a wife, mother of two teenagers and a lover of research and the way words flow and meld together. She has been in the media industry for over 20 years, and yet still learns more about life from her children everyday.

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