Babies in the womb respond to their mothers' voice, even paying attention when they're read a story, a new study has found.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in US asked 74 women who were 36 weeks pregnant to read for two minutes while their babies' heart rate and movements were monitored.
They found babies stopped moving and lowered their heart rate when their mother started reading aloud to them, study lead author Kristin Voegtline said.
"It is quite fascinating how the foetus learns to recognise and react to the mother's voice before prior to birth - here, we showed that they can detect onset of maternal voice and differences in maternal voice," she said.
"Some women were napping prior to asking them to read aloud from a passage - these foetuses showed a brief startle to onset of maternal voice," she said.
Voegtline said the heart rate of foetuses lowered and movement stopped when mothers switched from chatting to reading aloud, the 'Herald Sun' reported.
"The near-term foetus has a mature auditory system that reliably detects and responds to sound," she said.
The researchers concluded a mother's voice "shapesauditory learning in utero with implications for postnatalrecognition of, and preference for, the maternal voice". The study was published in the Infant Behaviour andDevelopment journal.