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A description of externally recorded womb sounds in human subjects during gestation

  • Author(s): Parga, JJ
  • Daland, R
  • Kesavan, K
  • Macey, PM
  • Zeltzer, L
  • Harper, RM
  • et al.
Abstract

Reducing environmental noise benefits premature infants in neonatal intensive care units (NICU), but excessive reduction may lead to sensory deprivation, compromising development. Instead of minimal noise levels, environments that mimic intrauterine soundscapes may facilitate infant development by providing a sound environment reflecting fetal life. This soundscape may support autonomic and emotional development in preterm infants. We aimed to assess the efficacy and feasibility of external non-invasive recordings in pregnant women, endeavoring to capture intra-abdominal or womb sounds during pregnancy with electronic stethoscopes and build a womb sound library to assess sound trends with gestational development. We also compared these sounds to popular commercial womb sounds marketed to new parents.Intra-abdominal sounds from 50 mothers in their second and third trimester (13 to 40 weeks) of pregnancy were recorded for 6 minutes in a quiet clinic room with 4 electronic stethoscopes, placed in the right upper and lower quadrants, and left upper and lower quadrants of the abdomen. These recording were partitioned into 2-minute intervals in three different positions: standing, sitting and lying supine. Maternal and gestational age, Body Mass Index (BMI) and time since last meal were collected during recordings. Recordings were analyzed using long-term average spectral and waveform analysis, and compared to sounds from non-pregnant abdomens and commercially-marketed womb sounds selected for their availability, popularity, and claims they mimic the intrauterine environment.Maternal sounds shared certain common characteristics, but varied with gestational age. With fetal development, the maternal abdomen filtered high (500-5,000 Hz) and mid-frequency (100-500 Hz) energy bands, but no change appeared in contributions from low-frequency signals (10-100 Hz) with gestational age. Variation appeared between mothers, suggesting a resonant chamber role for intra-abdominal space. Compared to commercially-marketed sounds, womb signals were dominated by bowel sounds, were of lower frequency, and showed more variation in intensity.High-fidelity intra-abdominal or womb sounds during pregnancy can be recorded non-invasively. Recordings vary with gestational age, and show a predominance of low frequency noise and bowel sounds which are distinct from popular commercial products. Such recordings may be utilized to determine whether sounds influence preterm infant development in the NICU.

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