Pregnant women can’t seem to catch a break. Everything you put in your body is scrutinized, you have to buy new clothes and shoes, and don’t get us started on morning sickness. And now, there’s homework beyond that stack of baby books — at least according to a new study from the University of Florida, which found that babies can learn nursery rhymes in utero.
Researchers asked 32 women from weeks 28 to 34 of their pregnancies to recite a nursery rhyme out loud twice a day, and then come in for tests. Using a fetal heart monitor, they measured the fetuses’ heart rates while playing a recording of the same rhyme their moms had been reciting, but spoken by a stranger. A control group heard a recording of a different rhyme. After week 34, the moms-to-be stopped reciting the rhyme, but returned for testing in weeks 36 and 38.
The study, published in the journal Infant Behavior and Development, found that by 34 weeks, a fetus’ heart rate slowed down in response to the familiar rhyme. They kept responding weeks later, even after their moms stopped reciting the nursery rhymes.
“We were basically asking the fetus, if your mother says this repeatedly, will you remember it?” the study’s lead author, Charlene Krueger, told Today.com. “When a mother speaks, not only does the fetus hear, but also the whole spine vibrates.”