Life in the Womb, Part 5

By Carol Tobias, President,
National Right to Life

Editor’s note. This can be heard at

unbornbabiesFrom the moment of conception, a unique human person is formed.  This new human being begins to develop in ways that are unique to all human beings, exhibiting all the characteristics of human life.  We’ve dedicated this week on Pro-Life Perspective to discussing the dramatic and beautiful developments that occur from that moment of fertilization

The five-month-old child in the womb is approximately 10” long.  She is extremely active will swim about in the amniotic sac until growth makes the space in the womb too tight for easy movement.  It has been shown that newborn babies can swim reflexively when placed in water, using an efficient frog kick.

In response to all of this activity, there is a rapid development of dendrites in the brain.  These are the connections between the cells that send the signals around the brain as the baby learns to respond to environmental stimulation. At this age, research has demonstrated that the unborn baby begins to learn through associational conditioning, which is probably facilitated by the development of the dendrites.

Between 5 and 6 months, the mother begins to notice that her unborn child jumps in response to loud noises coming from the environment.  Unborn babies have auditory preferences.  They are calm and quiet when the mother is listening to Baroque-style music, such as Mozart, but become active and appear to be upset by loud, dynamic music, such as Beethoven.

Unborn babies listen to all the sounds of the mother’s body while in the womb, including digestive churnings, regular cardiac patterns, breathing, and especially the mother’s voice.  Babies are naturally attracted to the sound of the human voice and this process begins in the womb.  Research has suggested that newborn babies react with greater interest to the voices of family members (as opposed to strangers) because they have had experience hearing these voices for so many months while being carried in the womb.

Unborn babies at this age respond to the environment. They react if the mother suddenly is immersed in cold water.  If the mother turns over at night, they may have to change their position in the womb to “get comfortable” again.  They become quiet and are comforted by the movement of the mother, when she walks or swims.  They can see light patterns and appear to see the predominant color in the womb.  After birth, newborn babies prefer to look at red-orange colors.

The nervous system for pain is mature by 16 weeks in the womb, the neurotransmitters for sending pain messages are present at 12-20 weeks and the cortical neurons for processing pain are present at 20 weeks.  Invasive procedures, such as surgery, have been shown to cause the same hormone changes in babies as early as 20 weeks that occur in adults subjected to pain.  The human body has many mechanisms for reducing the feelings of pain.  None of these are developed in the unborn and newborn baby.  Consequently, at these stages of development, pain is felt more strongly than will be the case later in development.

Between 6 and 9 months, at birth, the unborn baby will grow from 13” to 20” and add approximately 1/3 of her total birth weight.

As I mentioned yesterday, perhaps the most powerful argument against abortion that we have as a pro-life movement is the development of the youngest members of our human family.

These medical and scientific facts – which are taught daily in schools around the world – clearly demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child.