Kicks In The Womb Indicate The Baby Is Mentally Mapping Its Body, Research Finds

When a pregnant woman feels a kick from her forthcoming baby, naturally she'd feel that's the baby's way of letting her know that he or she is there. Interestingly enough, those kicks are the baby's way of finding that same thing out for itself. Recent research has revealed that those kicks don't just have physical motives, they're mental as well, providing telltale signs that the baby needs to map its own body.

Those were the findings revealed by Scientific Reports which came out on November 30th. The study, conducted at the University of London with help from the University College London, examined fetal movements and determined that those kicks and other actions were ways for the baby's brain to create a network of sorts to further understand its anatomy. Kicking, according to the logic, shows the baby not only what its limb is capable of doing, but it also maps where that leg is in relation to the rest of the body. Ditto for arm movements.

Seeing that the baby's location in the womb made it impossible for researchers to study brainwave activity in the fetus, studying bodily movement was the next best way to determine how the baby builds on the framework of its brain. To see if body mapping does indeed take place before birth, the study tested 19 newborns who were in the womb between 31 to 42 weeks before they were born.


Brainwaves of newborns while sleeping concentrated on occasions when they would kick or move their limbs during periods of rapid eye movement. Waves spiked everytime a baby moved. What's particularly notable was that the waves were stronger among premature babies than their counterparts who were in the womb for nine months before birth. To the researchers, that activity indicated mapping and that transfer of information from the limb to the brain.

While that development may be crucial for survival once its born, researchers also believe that this mapping knowledge might be helpful for neonatal care of premature babies. Properly wrapping a premature baby, for instance, might work wonders for an infant in that the baby might experience the same sensations as still being in the womb. And if that state of mind is achieved, the premature baby can still continue with its body mapping process and overall brain development.

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