Are you bored sitting at home during pregnancy and look forward to attending a rock concert soon? Are you pregnant and work in a factory full of noisy machinery? Well, if you can relate to any of the above situations reading this post is a must!
Pregnancy is a critical phase when your health and your baby’s development are at stake. Do you know the negative impact of loud noises during pregnancy is a hot topic of debate in the medical fraternity? If you are clueless and anxious to know more go ahead and give this post a read!
When Can A Fetus Hear In The Womb?
When the gestational age of your baby is about 16 weeks, he can hear sounds. As your pregnancy progresses, and you cross 27 to 30 weeks his ears will form fully. Any exposure to unexpected loud sounds now become a potential stimulus and may result in an automatic startle reflex in the fetus. The baby may blink or even “jump” within the womb in response to loud noises. (1)
Side Effects Of Loud Noises During Pregnancy
Here are some theories that suggest the common ways in which loud noise can adversely affect an unborn baby:
Chronic noise exposure during pregnancy leads to maternal hypertension and congenital abnormalities in the fetus. (2) Animal research proves that exposure to high levels of sound during pregnancy negatively affects the fetal development. The outcomes may be similar for human beings too. Such babies may show limited motor activity and motor maturity. They may also display abnormal behavior, develop slow learning skills and have higher levels of cortisol during weaning.
Some studies indicate that, pregnant women who live near the airport and listen to high decibels of noise every day are at a higher risk of shortened pregnancy than others. Their newborn may also suffer from low birth weight.(3)
Sounds Are Not Always Harmful
On the contrary, many studies negate the side effects of loud noise on fetal development.
- Chronic exposure to loud noises (60 to 80 decibels) invokes a stress response in most humans. Noise levels higher than 80 decibels can even cause permanent hearing loss. However, the potential for loud noises to be a reproductive hazard is still under study, and no conclusive results have emerged yet. Research is yet to prove the theory that the exposure to high decibel noise during pregnancy can lead to teratogenicity, stillbirth, and spontaneous abortion. For example, a vibroacoustic stimulation of the fetus by obstetricians leads to an increased fetal heart rate and movements. However, no damage to the fetal inner eye is detected. A possible mechanism to study the effects of noise during pregnancy is a stress-induced maternal catecholamine surge and a monitoring of the consequent uterine vasoconstriction. (4)
- Usually, most noises do not harm the fetus because of the amniotic fluid that surrounds it inside the uterus.(5)Often the effect of loud noises on the fetus’ ears can be related to the same feeling of being under water and hardly facing any disturbance due to loud sounds. The baby who is inside a pool of amniotic fluid may react to the outside sounds and vibrations, but the sound does not carry through the water at the same frequency as it does through air. Hence, the sound will not be loud enough to disturb the tiny ears of your baby. (6)
[ Read: Environmental Hazards During Pregnancy ]
Dangerous Sounds To Avoid During Pregnancy
Still, it is not good to expose the fetus to loud noises for repeated intervals or prolonged periods. There is a chance that the fetus may suffer from a hearing loss within the womb if the pregnant mother works for eight to ten hours next to a chainsaw or a lawnmower (85 to 100 decibels). Extremely high volumes of over 140 decibels produced by a jet engine or a rock concert amplifier can also prove fatal for the fetus. To ensure the fetus within the womb is safe from all noise-related hazards, avoid the following situations:
- Avoid exposure to the sounds of jet engines on a regular basis.
- Abstain from standing near a firing range.
- Avoid standing in the front row during a rock concert.
- Refrain from working at a place that subjects you to loud noises above 80 decibels constantly. (7)
Industrialists and manufacturers should try and reduce the noise and vibrations of the machines to benefit all workers especially pregnant women (8)
In order to be better safe than sorry, we advise you limit your exposure to loud noises while pregnant. It is better to drop the idea of attending a rock concert while expecting and instead focus on the bliss of motherhood that is around the corner for you.
Hope now you are clear about loud noises and pregnancy. How does the baby inside your womb respond to loud noises? We would love to know more about her wonderful reactions.
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