Bonding with Your Prenatal Child
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Sarah Zein
· 5 min read

Traditionally speaking, parents tend to wait until their child is born in order to engage in bonding experiences like playing, singing, and reading to them. However, several studies have shown that the bond between the mother and child is first established prenatally, meaning that a child can hear his mother’s voice, and sense her emotional states all while in the womb.

1. Sound

A fetus’ hearing develops at the beginning of the third trimester (at seven months); a mother’s voice is transmitted through the amniotic fluid surrounding the child, to their skull (bone conduction), and finally into their inner ear, forming one of the first parent-child communication experiences.

In Moon et al’s study (2013), a group of mothers were instructed to talk to their unborn children consistently for the last 10 weeks of their pregnancy, and upon birth, experimenters played for them different sounds corresponding to two languages. One language was that spoken by the mother, the other was a foreign language. The infants showed increased attention, recognition, and preference to the language that they had been hearing their mother speak. These results are incredibly important because they, not only indicate that the baby can hear sounds while in the womb and recall them after birth, but also show that they are capable of learning language and distinguishing between vowels prenatally.

A popular method of having a fetus hear sounds would be putting earphones or speakers on one’s belly. While not enough evidence exists on the disadvantages of this method, researchers suggest that it might increase the amount of noise that the baby experiences inside the womb, which is in of itself a noisy place. Thus, there is no need to go to lengths to interact with your child, since speaking to them seems to be a proven effective method.

So, for expecting mothers, talking to your babies, reading them stories, or humming lullabies are healthy and simple ways to bond with your new unborn family member. At birth, your child would be able to recognize you through several factors, one of which is your voice.

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2. Emotions

The transition into parenthood is no easy task, it can be accompanied by excitement, joy, anticipation, as well as by anxieties and fears for the infant’s health and one’s ability to handle this drastic transition. However, all these emotions are also felt by the unborn infant. Children experience emotions that are prevalent in the household prenatally. For example, they can feel the mother’s distress and become stressed themselves through the transmission of stress hormones via the placenta, hearing loud noises (i.e., shouting), or experiencing a restricted blood flow to the placenta due to negative emotions. Therefore, experiencing negative emotions for a long period of time during pregnancy tends to affect the unborn child negatively and decreases the quality of parent-child bonding (Gobel et al., 2019). To elaborate, the quality of the parent-child bond decreases because:

a. The child can feel the effects of physiological and psychological stress.
b. When a partner experiences emotional distress, the other partner also tends to experience negative emotions, which in turn affects the unborn child.
c. Emotional distress may distract both partners from spending time bonding with their unborn child.

To conclude, maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner, and addressing any anxieties or distress that you may be feeling at the time of pregnancy is an essential factor in maintaining a healthy emotional bond with your child. In difficult times, parents are advised to go to therapy in order to deal with their fears and anxieties. In case an event that causes anger or sadness occurs, both partners are advised to spend time sitting with their unborn infant, and talking soothingly with one another, all which increases calmness and restores a healthy bonding experience.


Moon, C., Lagercrantz, H., & Kuhl, P. K. (2013). Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth: a two-country study. Acta paediatrica (Oslo, Norway : 1992), 102(2), 156–160.

Göbel, A., Barkmann, C., Arck, P., Hecher, K., Schulte-Markwort, M., Diemert, A., & Mudra, S. (2019). Couples’ prenatal bonding to the fetus and the association with one's own and partner's emotional well-being and adult romantic attachment style. Midwifery, 79, 102549.