Florida IVF Fertility Doctor Reminds You That Babies Are Listening

As a Florida IVF Fertility Doctor, I remind  you that babies are listening.  Here is an article by Meghan Holohan as reported by NBC News. I fully believe that babies are listening.  We need to talk and sing happy songs so the little ones can hear.


Unborn babies are hearing you, loud and clear

Meghan HolohanNBC News 22 hours ago

What unborn babies hear can shape their brains, a new study shows. Here, an infant undergoes an assessment for fetal learning.

Courtesy of Veikko Somerpuro, Un
What unborn babies hear can shape their brains, a new study shows. Here, an infant undergoes an assessment for fetal learning.

Expectant moms who coo and chat to their babies while they’re pregnant may be doing more than stimulating the fetus – they may be shaping their child’s brain, according to research published Monday.

A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reinforces what many people had believed—babies hear what their moms say and their brains recognize these words after birth.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland looked at 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with two, four minute sequences of made-up words (“tatata” or “tatota”, said several different ways and with different pitches) from week 29 until birth.

The moms and babies heard the nonsense words about 50 to 71 times. Following birth, the researchers tested the all 33 babies for normal hearing and then performed an EEG (electroencephalograph) brain scan to see if the newborns responded differently to the made-up words and different pitches.

Babies who listened to the CD in utero recognized the made-up words and noticed the pitch changes, which the infants who did not hear the CD did not, the researchers found. They could tell because their brain activity picked up when those words were played, while babies who didn’t hear the CD in the womb did not react as much.

“We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.

“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”

This paper does more than simply find that babies in utero can hear; it shows that babies can detect subtle changes and process complex information.

“Interestingly, this prenatal exposure also helped the newborns to detect changes which they were not exposed to: the infants who have received additional prenatal stimulation could also detect loudness changes in pseudo words but the unexposed infants could not,” Partanen says.

“However, both groups did have responses to vowel changes (which are very common in Finnish, and which newborns have been many time previously been shown to be capable of).”

These findings build on other research conducted over the past 20 years that looks at how babies respond to sound. Minna Huotilainen, who also worked on the study, published a study in 2005 showing that fetuses can discriminate among sounds. And, in 1988 researchers found that babies who heard soap operas in utero became addicted—at least to the melodies. Babies with moms who watched soaps while they were pregnant responded to the melodic cues in the shows.

Can what your baby hears in the womb really affect learning?

Courtesy of Veikko Somerpuro, Un
Can what your baby hears in the womb really affect learning?

The finding support the idea that an unborn fetus can learn and remember just as well as a newborn, the researchers said. It may be worthwhile to expose babies to more sounds before they are even born.

“The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know [about] early development of language,” Partanen says. “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].” 


Posted by:

Julio E. Pabon, M.D, F.A.C.O.G.


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Fertility Center and Applied Genetics of Florida

Treating patients from Sarasota, Tampa, Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Naples, and Bonita Springs, Florida, U.S.A.

www.geneticsandfertility.com   www.drpabon.com

Florida IVF Doctor reviews recent information about In Vitro Fertilization Risks

A recent article published in JAMA (July 2013), Autism and Mental Retardation Among Offspring After In Vitro Fertilization by Sven Saudin et al., reminds us that most well done assessments have shown that the observed problems are most likely the result of the genetics of the patients being treated and not due to the IVF treatment.  Humans have a risk of congenital problems that is in the range of 3-4%.  These congenital problems may be as minor as a mole or as severe as a major heart defect.  The 3-4% risk of congenital anomalies is seen in a fertile population while infertility patients may expect the risk of congenital anomalies to be almost twice that even if a spontaneous conception occurs after prolonged sub-fertility.

As a Florida IVF Doctor, I find this recent report by Saudin et al (JAMA July 2013) very interesting.  He evaluated Swedish infants born between 1982-2007 for the incidence of autism or mental retardation.  They compared the incidence of these conditions in children conceived with IVF as compared to children born after spontaneous conception.  In my opinion, this is the greatest limitation of this study and many others that attempt to see if the IVF procedures are a cause of congenital anomalies or developmental problems.  Studies are flawed because these problems may be inherent to the infertile population or the multiple pregnancy itself and not the IVF procedures.  An example of this type of problem was seen a few years ago when there was a scare about whether IVF procedures were “causing” and increase in the risk of genetic imprinting disorders like the Angelman syndrome.  A follow up study evaluated the incidence of these conditions in the infertile or subfertile population that eventually conceived without IVF found that the conditions had the same incidence in the subfertile population whether they were treated with IVF or not.

Machelle L. Cedars, M.D. is Professor and Director of the UCSF Women’s Health Clinical Research Center.  He wrote an editorial in the same issue of JAMA.  I include some of his comments about this recent report:

“Prior studies have been largely reassuring regarding the risk of autism following IVF. Most of these studies have come from the Scandinavian countries where country-wide databases and registries provide populations for study and linkage with important aspects of both the exposures and outcomes of interest.  However, these studies have been compromised by relatively small sample sizes, poorly characterized outcomes of interest, and limited specific details about IVF and the associated procedures.”

“The results of the study support the absence of an association between any IVF procedure and autistic disorder compared with spontaneous conception.”

Although the authors found a small risk of mental retardation following IVF compared with spontaneous pregnancies (RR, 1.18 [95% CI, 1.01- 1.36]; 46.3 vs 39.8 per 100 000 person-years), this increase became nonsignificant when only evaluating singleton births.”

“The association of multiple birth and preterm birth with these outcomes is particularly important because decreasing the number of multiple births is a primary goal of assisted reproductive technology.”

“The increased risk of autistic disorder and mental retardation, largely accounted for by multiple pregnancies and preterm delivery, should provide another opportunity for reproductive health physicians to educate patients and other physicians about the importance of limiting embryo transfer number.”

“It is somewhat reassuring that the preliminary analyses in the current study failed to show an association with either assessed outcome and day 5 embryo culture.”

“Because ICSI is often used for male-factor infertility and is considered more invasive, it is of particular interest. The study by Sandin et al found an association between ICSI and mental retardation (RR, 1.51 [95% CI, 1.10-2.09]; 93.5 vs 61.8 per 100 000 person-years). However, similar to other outcomes, this relationship became nonsignificant in singletons.”

“The indication for ICSI in many of the studies with identified risk has been severe male-factor infertility. Very low sperm counts and sperm defects are frequently associated with paternal factors including increased genetic risk.”

“A recent study supports the concept that intrinsic genetic abnormalities of sperm may be a source of identified risk with ICSI in cases of very low sperm counts.”

We need to continue to evaluate these issues.  One fact is exceedingly clear.  We need to continue to do our best to avoid multiple pregnancies.  Recent technological advances with more reliable genetic evaluation of the embryos may make a significant difference in reducing the risk of a multiple pregnancy, the most obvious risk factor for potential morbidity.

Julio E. Pabon, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., July 4, 2013IMG_0440

Medical and Laboratory Director

Fertility Center and Applied Genetics of Florida

Sarasota and Bonita Springs, Florida