Can My Fetus Feel?

Posted by | July 08, 2019 | Fetal Development | No Comments

Consider yourself a human rocking chair during pregnancy as your baby is lulled to sleep by your walking, or perhaps roused from sleep by your jostling exercise. Your growing baby experiences many of the same things you do – the foods you eat, the emotions you feel, and the things you hear – just in slightly different ways. Your baby can also feel certain things from outside your abdomen, but rest assured that your general everyday movements do not cause pain and discomfort to your baby as he is safely enclosed in the amniotic fluid.

My Baby’s Senses

You might ask, “So what can my fetus feel?” By the time your developing baby is 20 weeks of gestational age, many of his senses are developed to a point where he will react to stimuli. His hearing is strong enough to recognize and react to your voice and other auditory stimulation. As he grows don’t be surprised if he seems to startle at loud noises in your environment for he is hearing them too, and he doesn’t have the advantage of knowing what is happening. His vision is even developing to a point where a bright light shined against your abdomen might cause him to react. He is also responding to the tastes and flavors of the food you eat.

By 20 weeks he can also sense pain and react to physical stimuli. His neural pathways are strong enough to recognize pain and interpret it as such. You might notice that if you gently press on the outside of your abdomen with your thumb or hand, your baby might sense this and press or kick back in response. Some babies also react to the prenatal exams where a doctor presses on the abdomen and measures growth.

If an outside trauma does occur to your abdomen, the amniotic cushion should protect him from the brunt of the force, but it sometimes isn’t enough. Always seek the attention of your doctor if you experience a fall, accident, or other forceful trauma to the abdomen during pregnancy.

How Can I Protect My Baby From Pain?

The best things you can do to protect your baby from feeling pain are the same things you are probably doing already in the effort to sustain a healthy pregnancy.

  • Be aware of balance problems that might make falling more likely.
  • Wear sensible shoes to prevent falling.
  • Avoid ladders and other activities that require you to be at heights.
  • Do not play contact sports or engage in activities that bring increased risks of physical injury to your body.
  • Find help if you are in a relationship where physical abuse is a risk. It is not safe for you or your growing baby.

Despite the myth to the contrary, your baby will not experience pain during intercourse. Not only is your baby safely protected by the amniotic fluid, but your cervix and vaginal walls create a protective tissue barrier between the baby and the outside world. Your baby is growing and experiencing many things, including the senses of smell, hearing, taste, and touch. All of these experiences are important for healthy growth and development.

*Image: Pregnancy – 39 Weeks by Bridget Coila.

Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”