- Shivakumar Belavadi, PPNE, Bangalore, India


An Unborn Child is resident in the womb of the mother. It is physically attached to the mother through the Umbilical cord and the Chorionic Villi forming part of the Placenta. This is well known in Obstetrical sciences. But the effect of the child is not just through the transference of food, nutrients and other enzymes from the mother. There are many other factors – at least of equal, if not higher importance.
This essay will attempt to trace the causes and effects and implications of psychological factors. The first thing to do is to recognize and accord a status to prenatal babies.

Sentient Prenatal Babies

An embryo/ foetus developing in the uterus was considered only as a physical entity and nothing more. Till a few decades ago (and even more recently), it was considered that a child in the womb does not have a fully developed brain, emotions and senses; therefore does not have feelings, sensations and expressions for those. But unborn babies do have all of these. For instance, babies in the womb could react violently during Amniocentesis procedures (needle insertion into the Amniotic Sac for drawing out fluid samples). Babies have withdrawn in fear to the needle, attacked needles and writhed and cried out in pain. There is enough recorded and researched evidence of these.

In other recorded evidence, babies in the womb have their sensory system operating at almost full capacity before birth.  Some clear example of these:

·    Babies react to tastes. Babies swallow more from the womb environment when mothers have consumed sweets like chocolates and less when they have taken pungent foods like garlic.

·      Babies discern sound. When they hear pleasant sound like Brahm’s Lullaby, Mozart, and Vivaldi’s music, the foetal heart rates are slower and babies are relaxed in the womb. On the contrary, they react violently with increased heart rates and by kicking to rock music, other tunes of Brahms and Beethoven.

·    Behavioural Tendencies: William Emerson, quotes Piontelli in her book From “Fetus to Child”, citing cases of prenatal awareness. Piontelli describes a twin pair, at about four months of gestation, who were very conscious of each other, and were also involved in dominance-submission interactions. One of the twins was dominant and aggressive, the other submissive. Whenever the dominant twin was pushing or hitting, the submissive twin withdrew and placed his head on the placenta, appearing to rest there. In life, when these twins were four years of age, they had the same relationship. Whenever there was fighting or tension between the pair, the passive twin would go to his room and put his head on his pillow. He also carried a pillow and used it as his "security blanket," resting on it whenever his twin became aggressive.”

Pain has been compounded after birth in NICU procedures done without anaesthesia. This is in the understanding that just like the unborn, the new born is also not sentient.  David Chamberlain has written that – “Perhaps the greatest routine violence to premature babies has been surgery without anaesthesia. Even the most common heart surgery, patent ductus arteriosus, was typically performed without pain killers (Anand & Aynsley-Green, 1985; Butler, 1989; Harrison, 1987). A similar tragedy with a much longer history is the practice of penile circumcision, a legacy of ancient tribal patriarchy which ironically was copied in the U.S. by obstetricians and paediatricians with profound and painful consequences (O'Mara, 1993; Porter, Miller, & Marshall, 1986; Romberg, 1985).”  
With the above background, we can begin with the clear understanding that Prenates are sentient and capable.


The reader may have wondered, why a reference to new-borns has been made above while discussing unborn babies. For a reason. It is now well recognised in prenatal and perinatal sciences that the period of Pregnancy and Infancy (about two years after birth) form a continuum. The babies in the womb and during infancy are specially enabled in the course of their development. They function largely with the subconscious mind’s abilities as opposed to those of the conscious mind.

Dr. Bruce Lipton, an authority on Cellular Biology has discussed this extensively in his book Biology of Belief.  Babies in the womb and during infancy function operate in the bands of Delta and Theta wave frequencies (approximating from 0.5 to 4 Hz). Their capacities at that time are far in excess of what a conscious mind can do. For instance, the conscious mind (with brain, memory, thinking abilities etc.) processes 40 environmental stimuli per second. On the other hand, the subconscious mind processes 20,000,000 stimuli per second! Similarly, the conscious mind cannot view objects behind opaque screens. Subconscious can!  The point being made here is that the babies in such a state are highly empowered to take in signals and form the first impressions of life. These impressions form patterns, get reinforced and may subsequently be expressed in the course of the whole life!

Dr.William Emerson summarises this with a simple example in the following words:

“Theory and research from the last 20 years indicates that prenatal experiences can be remembered, and have lifelong impact………. Prenatal experiences are likely to have lifelong impact when they are followed by reinforcing conditions or interactional trauma. The term interactional trauma means that traumas interact with each other in producing their effects. For example, it is unlikely that being stuck during the birthing process causes claustrophobia during adulthood. However, claustrophobia is more likely if similar, reinforcing traumas occur.”
This period of 9 months of Pregnancy and 2 years of Infancy adds up to about 1000 days. It is a highly potent period when the child forms its patterns for the rest of its life. Information given above, summarises that an unborn baby while in the womb of the mother is:

1. Sentient and Aware
2. Operates with different capabilities, some with much higher potential than adults operating in their conscious minds. The baby truly has “super human potential and abilities”.
3. Takes in impressions in this phase which could impinge on life patterns and impact the subsequent course of life.

Preconception Period

Many of the processes causing and influencing childbirth are operational during the preconception period. For example - A pregnant lady, is born out of an egg/ovum which is generally takes shape and is visible in the 11th week of pregnancy of her grandmother. Human body takes in dozens of chemicals which remain in a non-metabolized state and may be found in the uterus. The chemicals may influence the embryo which will nest there in the womb. Today scientists and sociologists are both advocating that the process of childbirth begins much before conception. Hence the preparation for having a child should begin right then. In my opinion, given the prevailing lifestyles, a minimum of 3 to 5 months preparation may be needed. They impinge upon the selection of genes, gene expression and genomic imprinting.  

If we reckon the total period – from preconception through infancy, it sums up to more than 1100 days.  That is the Golden Period in the life of an Individual, which has the maximum and profound influence through the course of full life.


A child in the womb is intimately and totally connected with the mother. What the mother experiences in her body and mind, clearly and directly impacts the child. If the mother has unpleasant or pleasant experiences or perceptions, these transfer to the child seamlessly and automatically. The reactions of the unborn child have been noticed through increased foetal heart rates and levels of stress hormones (catecholamines, cortisol etc.).

Physical Influences

An unborn child being sentient has a perception of what is prevailing within the womb and around her/him. These could be mediated from sensory signals like light, sound, smell and touch. For example, if the mother hears loud noises or undergoes jerks and jolts, the experiences cascade into the child. When mothers have consumed alcohol or tobacco, the babies have clearly demonstrated negative effects including foetal alcoholism and blood nicotine levels. Hence the mother’s physiological responses translate into effects on the child as well. In the same manner, physical abuse and violence felt or perceived by the pregnant mother also impacts on the child. It is well known that Body impacts the Mind and vice versa.
Similarly, experiences of a prenate through food, music, touch and the pains or encounters of the mother during pregnancy or in the child in birth process (which are exacerbated with painful use of instruments) are all matters which, if violent or harmful could cause foetal trauma. A good example to recall, would be the reaction of babies to needles used in the Amniocentesis process or use of forceps during birth. Patterns are formed in the cranium because of physical impact. Some practices like Somatic /Bio-dynamic Cranio Sacral methods, access these physical points in the course of therapy. 

Psychological Influences

If a mother is subjected to mental harassment or abuse (without physical violence), there is a similar cascading effect on the child. Logically it would be more severe if it is accompanied by physical violence. The science and knowledge of how this operates is slowly being discovered today.

These are influences mediated by the Mind. What is the human mind? Eminent psychologist Dan Siegel has described the mind in these words - “The mind, beyond subjective experience and beyond conscious and non-conscious information processing, can be seen as a self-organizing, emergent process of a complex system…….. An important aspect of the mind can be defined as an embodied and relational, emergent self-organizing process that regulates the flow of energy and information both within us and between and among us.”  It will be seen clearly that the mind is not the brain, it is self-organizing, it processes information and energy, is relational and complex. And that system is both within us and between us and others.

Hence all the relationships which connect the mother to the external world – be it the father of the child, the parents of the mother and her(mother’s) relationship with them through her birth and life, her family, workplace and other influences - all impinge on her mind and from there, seamlessly flow into the child in the womb. The mother’s mind could be imagined as a giant TV screen –through which the child is continuously viewing and understanding as the realities of the world outside the womb. Many of the present day manifestations such as fear, anger, depression, anxiety, stress, trauma and shock on the negative platter and of harmony, peace, balance, attachment, love, creativity and the like on the positive side are all assimilated as images, experiences and patterns by the child in the womb and these carry the potential to manifest later on in life.

Epigenetic Influences

The genetic apparatus in the nucleus of a cell includes the Chromosomes, DNA, RNA, Proteins, Amino Acids etc. These were well recognised as those causing physical growth through the course of development as an embryo and foetus.  They in turn, cause the subsequent manifestation in the physical and mental realms of the child and through the course of life. Since the genetic patterns through genomic imprinting were made from conception through pregnancy, it was thought that these genetic patterns and expressions are final and do not change. This was the deterministic view of genetic science, which was in vogue for many decades. However, the new science of Epigenetics has changed the world view on this subject!

While genetic patterns are made and manifest immediately or at different times, the science of Epigentics now clearly states that the genes are continuously subjected to influence from the outside. Moshe Szyf, Molecular Biologist and Geneticist at  McGill University, Michael Meaney, Neurobiologist at Owen Egan/McGill University and Dr.Bruce Lipton, a well-known scientist with a background of Cellular Biology,  authoritatively state that external influences are mediated to the protein and amino acids level by the cell membrane, where an elaborate mechanism of sensing and assimilating through the operation of “switches”. The switches turn on/off the genes. Evidently these are gateways. Signal Transduction is the new science which is studying the signalling mechanism in depth.

The term “Epigenetics” is not limited to the influence of the surrounding cells, blood, tissues and chemicals they carry. Everything in the world of perception and belief, including faith, prior memory, patterns found in ancestors of a child, stored and accessed memories, pollution, sound levels, atmospheric elements including cosmic and universal factors - are all potential epigenetic signals. Every one of these could influence the physical, mental and emotional realms of any individual at any time. The cross connections are immense with everything influencing everything! The epigenetic influences could even be transgenerational.

The cognition and structuring the flow of energies is the future human endeavour. While the benefits of this new understanding will would manifest more and more in the days to come, PPNE practitioners and professionals are using this knowledge effectively to generate positive influences and counter negative influences.


Spiritual Perspective from Ancient Indian Scriptures
(Ref: Garbhopanishad, Lalitha Sahasramana from Brahmannda Purana and Guruda Purana)

This is a perspective from the ancient scriptures of India. I begin with a quote from my Guru (Spiritual Mentor), Guru Maa Skanda Meera:

“Life is a game of ‘Hide and Seek’. We seek our own true Self which we have hidden before we are delivered into this world by our physical mothers. It is not easy to find because we do a good job of hiding it. Once we do find we are delivered out of this world by our Universal Mother. This world is her womb. Here is a little trick – Prenatal Education! This is a method by which we can leave very useful and powerful clues for ourselves before birth because we know there is memory loss going ahead.

Completeness is to thoroughly enjoy this treasure hunt!”

Human Being is a resonating energy being and these energies can be categorised over five layers for learning purposes. It is important to understand that at any instant all the layers are working in complete coordination and harmony. Living a spiritual and conscious life implies inducing symmetrical harmony into these frequencies through learning and evolving. This is the purpose and ultimate achievement in human life.

The essence of the scriptures states that the Self of a human being is Eternal Consciousness. “All Knowledge” gets fractalized and thickened at a particular confluence radius, thus forming the semblance of a membrane or a boundary. This is the transition from the Limitless to the Limited.  The manner in which this individualization occurs is unique for each human being and depends upon internal factors (tendencies carried through the continuum of consciousness / previous lives impressions) and external factors (time, space, gender, family, culture etc. selected by the one being born/ karmic impressions).
The process of birth can be understood holistically when it is understood along with the process of death. The latter being one with no sensorial or intellectual proof, a student has to exercise belief systems to gain the full perspective. Therefore understanding the process of birth in continuation with the process of death, is indeed only a matter of faith and intuition that can be supported or accessorized with scientific research and understanding. In fact, of the five layers of Human Being, it is only one- the physical body, that undergoes what we call as “death”. The rest all the other resonating energies move into a transient phase of accumulation and exhaustion, and retransform to connect with the Human Realm again, thus creating the Process of Birth.

The scriptures then go on to describe in minute details, the formation of elements, qualities of energies, layers of frequencies, their interactions and effects on each other, the resultant faculties of intelligence, behaviour, personality, individuality and even destiny ! The foundational template for each one of these is formed within the sanctum of life – The Mother’s Womb. Therefore what is happening within the womb, is on one hand the creation of a unique powerful Human Being and on the other hand limitation of a Universal Being.

This sets the stage for a psychological state that an adult human may not be able to relate with easily. It is an indescribable state that a conscious human being will only experience in the reverse process of Unification with the Absolute. However, when this indeed happens, it can only be described as a fulfilling depression. This is the state a foetus is in, during its journey through the womb. A spiritually evolving adult is affected by and is free enough to be sensitive to all the factors surrounding him or her, and at the same time remain objective; similar to a foetus. During delivery of the baby, there will be a deliberate infusion of amnesia or loss of memory of this objectivity formed in the Universal Dimension and then the Self-limiting dimension as an “Individual” contained in the body, emotions and mind levels unfold. And then begins life when a human being starts seeking the same state from which life began!
The technique of learning these and manifesting this profound knowledge in every instant of our lives is called Tantra.  For the purpose of this essay I shall illustrate one important part of the spiritual core that directly and clearly explains foetal psychology as we adults can understand. Here is a picture explaining the concept in brief.
Purpose of Life - Learn and Evolve
Creating the “Hide and Seek” Game

The core is the “Heart Centre” of the individual or the Baby in the Womb. This centre is connected to everything within the baby and all external dimensions including the universe. The Heart is the seat of knowledge – in fact ‘All Knowledge’

Description of Layer
Relevance to Foetal Psychology
Helpful Influences
Harmful Influences

Central Circle

Heart Centre – The seat of Knowledge

This is activated prior to conception
Intending deliberately and extending an Invitation
Treating it as a mere biological event

Six Pointed Star

Six means of Knowledge

Begins at formation of Zygote
Conscious Conception – sanctity in the act of union
Lustful or pleasure seeking union

Six Arc Sectors

Human Desires which create the need for gaining Knowledge
Starts with the attachment of embryo to the wall of Uterus

Prepared Parenting

Casual Parenting
Six Semi-Circles
Sources of Knowledge
These are affirmed by the third month of Pregnancy
Relaxed and soulful pregnancy
Anxiety and Fear

Nine Circles

Intelligences – the absorption of Knowledge
Intelligences – seven of them develop over the first seven months of Gestation thus completing human consciousness. Interpersonal and Intrapersonal develop during perinatal and infancy periods
Taking up Holistic Practices of Prenatal Education - Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Sensorial, Creative, Spiritual and Devotional
Complete ignorance about the Holistic Prenatal development and lack of conscious activities in pregnancy

Nine Two-way arrows

Connections to and from Memory which is a collective Human Field.
Orchestrates from the eight month of Gestation and reaches its finality in the perinatal / infancy period.
Infant Education, Post-partum behaviour and subconscious learning

Betrayal of Trust.

All the above mentioned “Helpful influences” have been given as Samskaras or holistic developmental milestones at points of time in ancient scriptures. For the common folk who might not take to scriptural learning, these were given as cultural or religious mandates. Unfortunately, the true value is not realised and consequently either not done at all or performed as mere rituals. This knowledge forms the basis of advises and prescriptions of Ayurveda as well.

Role of Prenatal Education

If a child in the womb, is given access to more and more resources, primarily by the parents and society, the child is better equipped and enabled to take up its role in the ‘Universal-Human Hide and Seek’ orchestrations that go on. The more the parents are empowered and take to imparting education holistically in all dimensions, the better is the preparation of the child when it comes out into the world. These are referred to as the Physical, Emotional, Intellectual, Sensorial, Creative, Spiritual and Devotional dimensions.

In the Indian scriptures, the primary role of Prenatal Education is to ‘Educate the Prenatal Child’. They are called “Garbha Samskaras” – meaning educating and empowering the child in the course of the journey of the child from conception to the time of birth in the human world. These are followed by “Shishu Samskaras” – meaning education and empowerment in the journey of Infancy. These are to be completed within about 2 years after birth.

When the Garbha and Shishu Samskaras periods are combined, they completely map with the Golden Period of 1000+ days, referred to by present day Prenatal and Perinatal Psychologists, Workers and Educators.  It is to be noted that it is not as if there is no concern for the pregnant mothers in Indian scriptures, but those are part of another process called Garbhini Paricharya.
At this stage, it may be appropriate recall that the baby in the womb operates through Delta-Theta frequencies ( mentioned earlier) in the subconscious realm. Indeed the baby truly has “super human potential”.  If the child is better educated and endowed with knowledge and abilities through the course of Preconception, Pregnancy and Infancy – the better it will fare in the subsequent phases of life.


Psychological factors create abilities or weaken potential in unborn children. They influence the happenings in the course of life as a child and as an adult. The influences could be understood from different perspectives. In the end there is a clear cut aim – To Empower a Child. The more holistically a child is empowered through appropriate inputs, the better will be the output. Mother, Father, Family, Society, Nations and the World as a whole have a stake in this.

Future Citizens…. indeed better Citizens are needed for the world, and that process begins before, during and immediately after the period in the womb. Prenatal and Perinatal Education is the key!