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"FIRST DOCUMENTATION OF FETUS' CRYING EARLY IN THE WOMB"
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September 13, 2005

Research: The Fetus Appears To Cry In The Womb At 28 Weeks
(Or Earlier)
Crying characteristics from stimuli included changes in breathing patterns, facial accompaniments of crying,
such as a grimace or frown, eye closure, tongue movement, and swallowing.
.
The expression of crying thus indicates a several stage maturation of sensory reception,
processing of signals as potentially deleterious, a dimension of affect, and recruitment of an appropriate response.

.Gerry M. Kaye
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Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal and Neonatal Edition -
According to an ultrasound study, the authors believe the study to be the first documentation of crying behavior in the fetus. They concluded that the sonograms indicate that the fetuses had developed complex responses to sensory stimulation and appear to cry in the womb as early as 28 weeks old, or earlier; suggesting that behavioral and motor skills at this stage may be more mature than once thought. This finding may provide more insight into the rate at which fetuses develop behavioral and motor skills throughout gestation.

This discovery came by chance. Researchers led by Jeannie L. Gingras, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Carolinas Medical Center and colleagues, had set out to study the effects that tobacco and cocaine exposure during pregnancy had on fetal responses to vibroacoustic stimulation. Images captured on ultrasound and video recordings indicated that the stimulation caused the unborn to cry.

Dr. Gingras and colleagues wrote that the findings also indicate it is possible that a fetus might be able to cry before 28 weeks. Pre-term infants born at 24 weeks are able to cry. By 20 weeks gestation, the fetus possesses the complete motor repertoire needed for crying behavior: coordinated breathing efforts, jaw opening, mouthing, chin quiver, tongue extension, and swallowing.

"The fetus is capable of responding to sound and other perturbations with highly coordinated movements that mimic temporal and behavioral components of the extra uterine cry," Dr. Gingras and colleagues wrote in the Archives of Disease in Childhood Fetal and Neonatal Edition. "These observations may have further developmental implications, as the expression of crying implies more than execution of a motor pattern."

The study on tobacco and cocaine use during pregnancy involved 54 pregnant women who smoked, 30 who used cocaine, and 60 who did neither. Ten of the fetuses appeared to cry. Ultrasound assessments were done at 28 to 31.9 weeks, again at 32 to 35.9 weeks, and once more at 36 or more weeks.

First, the fetus was observed unperturbed on ultrasound for 20 minutes. Eye movements, body movement, and heart rate were observed and measured in real time.

Then the fetus was challenged with electronic vibroacoustic stimulation with tones measuring 100 Hz and 95 decibels that provided 0.5 second of stimulation. The intrauterine noise intensity was reported to be about 85 decibels. The study had ethical approval from the medical center review board.

This setting was considered ideal, the investigators explained, because it stimulated the fetuses without causing excessive fetal movement and tachycardia, which can occur with longer stimulation. After stimulation, the fetus was observed on ultrasound for 10 seconds.

The results showed that intrauterine crying was not a fluke. Of the 10 fetuses who showed crying behavior after being stimulated, three exhibited all the characteristics of crying on two different occasions. These characteristics included changes in breathing patterns, facial accompaniments of crying, such as a grimace or frown, eye closure, tongue movement, and swallowing.

Fetuses who cried turned their heads after the stimulation and moved their mouths. Their chins also quivered.

Of the 10 fetuses with crying behavior, four of their mothers smoked cigarettes during pregnancy, three smoked and used cocaine, and three neither smoked nor used cocaine. Substance use did not appear to affect crying behavior, the researchers concluded.

"The behavior was observed equally in controls (non-smokers and no cocaine use), suggesting that these behaviors are not specific to tobacco or cocaine exposure," the investigators wrote.

Crying was not seen when the fetuses were not disturbed, the research team noted.

When they were born, one infant had a low Apgar score at one minute and none had low Apgar scores at five minutes. Birth weight and gestational age did not vary significantly between the fetuses who were found to be crying and the whole population of subjects (range of birth weight 5.8 pounds to 9.1 pounds; range of gestational age 36.7 weeks to 41.7 weeks).

"The expression of crying thus indicates a several stage maturation of sensory reception, processing of signals as potentially deleterious, a dimension of affect, and recruitment of an appropriate response," they wrote.

Reference: Sept. 12, 2005 - "Infant Crying Appears to Start in the Womb" By Katrina Woznicki, MedPage Today Staff Writer
Reviewed by Rubeen K. Israni, M.D., Fellow, Renal-Electrolyte and Hypertension Division, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

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News Report 6/29/04 "Ultrasound Tech Views Wide Eyed-Walking Fetuses"
Just how alive-and-well these womb-persons are, is being viewed via high-resolution, golden-hued ultrasound images of fetuses
in their amniotic homes. The latest advances in ultrasound technology from grainy 2D to glorious 4D with accompanying DVD, produce images
that are impressive, showing facial features, hair, fingers, toes and even a fetus' sex. Significantly the babes are shown to be, immediately after fertilization,
in rapid development, soon with eyes wide open and walking on the walls of the womb.

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"FIRST DOCUMENTATION OF FETUS' CRYING EARLY IN THE WOMB" (c) Copyright 2005 by Gerry M. Kaye.