Prenatal University: Commitment to Fetal-Family Bonding and the Strengthening of the Family Unit as an Educational Institution
Publication Date:March 1998
This paper reviews The Prenatal University stimulation program, which is designed: 1) to create an interactive relationship between parents-to-be and the developing fetus, and 2) to reinforce a "preconscious awareness of the environment" by the developing fetus. The prenatal stimulation program is designed with working parents in mind. Only two five-minute sessions are required per day for effective implementation. Both mother and father are involved; siblings and other relatives are also encouraged to join in the game-like sessions.
Prenatal stimulation allows mother/infant and father/infant bonding, and strengthens familial bonding through interactive communication. Primary communication begins during the "kick game," in which either parent presses upon the stomach in the area of the fetus' foot and the fetus responds with a kick; the parents can then perceive their fetus as being human. Mother and father are equally involved in the stimulation process, setting up positive co-parenting patterns that usually continue after the birth. Siblings who are allowed to talk to the fetus and feel it through their mother's stomach can develop a positive relationship with the baby before it is brought home from the hospital. The program also emphasizes continued physical intimacy between father- and mother-to-be, as father is instructed to pat, rub, and place his lips on mother's abdomen to communicate with the fetus.
Prenatal stimulation introduces an associative learning process that may impact fetal development through the fetus' auditory, tactile, and spatial senses. Stimulation of these senses begins at 20 weeks of gestation; more complex musical tones and verbal stimulation are introduced at 32 weeks. The program recommends stimulation during heightened fetal activity when the fetus is more alert. The stimulus-response interaction during the five-minute program reinforces development of the infant's attention span and, if consistently implemented, can condition the infant to a pattern of activity and sleep that continues well after birth. Follow-up interactions with parents and infants support the program's assertions and cite the long-lasting affects of prenatal stimulation upon subjects as they grow into childhood.
ABOUT THIS PAPER: Although babies started kicking and mothers started talking to babies millions of years ago, inventive obstetrician Rene Van de Carr was struck by the way one of his pregnant mothers had begun a mutual touch-dialogue with her kicking prenate. The doctor began at once to create a whole series of experiences other parents might use to form early connections with their babies in the womb. Before he knew it, he had become the "grandfather" of a new movement of prenatal stimulation-an idea that spread rapidly, aided in part by the comic strip Cathy®, which suddenly had pregnant couples talking to babies in bedrooms across America.
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F. Rene Van de Carr, M.D., and Marc Lehrer, Ph.D.
Reprinted from: Pre- and Perinatal Psychology Journal Vol. 3 (1988) No. 2, 87-102.
Address correspondence to Dr. Rene Van de Carr, 27225 Calaroga Ave., Hayward, CA 94545.