The Emotional Experience of the Fetus: A Preliminary Report
Publication Date:October 1996
From the observation of the bonding behavior that the newborn shows even during the first hours of life, the high degree synchronization and transaction that he shows during interaction with his mother, and the capability that many mothers have of immediately establishing a relationship with him, we can arrive at the conclusion that bonding after birth, described by many authors as a separate entry, is really the continuation of the intrauterine contact that began long before. The Affective Syntonization between mother and child is a continuum of the Affective Syntonization (i.e., resonance) between mother and fetus. One of the most surprising and interesting aspects of the mother-fetus relationship is the bond of emotional dialogue that will take place between them. Through analysis of i) Fetal Heart Rate; ii) Maternal Heart Rate (before delivery); iii) Fetal Movements; iv) Movements of the Newborn; vi) Newborn Heart Rate (for a total of 15 expectant mothers), the symbiotic relationship between the emotional state of the mother and that of the fetus is evaluated to ascertain if this type of relationship is still present after birth. That is, if the emotional state of the mother (Activated vs. Relaxation) [visually induced with the Affective Picture System, Lang, P. J.] might influence that of the fetus, and if there is a link between the fetal and the newborn conditions, when in this latter state intrauterine emotional stimuli and situations are represented in the cradle. And what type of behavior does the newborn have when he is made to listen to the heart beat of a different mother (control group). From the analysis of the results it is possible to conclude that: 1) The newborn is more capable of recognizing his emotional state with regard to his own mother when compared to an experience with different mother; 2) When presented with another mother's heart beat, he only responds to the rhythm of a noise he heard in the past nine months, whereas with his mother he not only responds (reacting or relaxing) but also is capable of recognizing the heart beat and gives more creative responses; 3) It could be hypothesized that in the intrauterine environment different "Prenatal Ego States" exist that make the newborn capable of distinguishing between different emotional states of his mother (from birth).
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Dr. Pier Luigi Righetti is associated with ANEP (National Association for Prenatal Education. Address correspondence to Dr. Pier Luigi Righetti, Via Dorso Duro 3756-30123, Venice, Italy.