MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Can thoughts alter hereditary make-up of an unborn child?

Date: Mon May 7 19:11:02 2001
Posted By: Stephen A. Butler, Post-doc/Fellow, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of New Mexico
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 988836499.Ge

This is a fascinating question with a simple answer of no. The very 
definition of hereditary is that it is inherited from the parents. This 
inheritance is of genetic material (genotype) that then contributes to the 
physical characteristics (phenotype) of the newly developing human.

I think your question without the word “hereditary” is much more 
interesting. Can the thoughts and experiences of a pregnant woman mark or 
alter an unborn child? To which the answer is complex. Transference of 
thought is a very complex area indeed and from a scientific point of view 
we don’t really understand how we generate “thoughts” at all, let alone if 
they could be transmitted to an unborn child. So there is no evidence to 
suggest such a thing but neither is there any evidence NOT to suggest such 
a thing.

Experiences, on the other hand could be interpreted in a different way, 
some, can definitely affect an unborn child where others may not at all. 
Most evidence comes from anything that a pregnant woman may take into her 
body. A lot of research has been done on smoking and alcohol effects on 
the growth of an unborn child. Certain physical defects, of a baby, can be 
caused by a pregnant woman taking drugs and other dietary supplements. 
Some research has been done on playing music to pregnant women or talking 
to the baby through the mother’s body, but the results are still very 
uncertain whether experiences of the mother can affect the baby. There is 
certainly no reason (especially later on in pregnancy) that the unborn 
child could begin to “learn” from its experiences just as it does after it 
is born.

One point you might like to consider is that an unborn child is human 
individual that is simply using the mother as a safe place to develop it 
is in no way “part” of the pregnant woman. As soon as the unborn has 
developed sufficiently I could be able to experience and think for itself!!

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