Influences on the Unborn Child

Swami Hridayananda Saraswati

Despite all the scientific advances, many people still suffer from emotional problems, restlessness, anxiety and worry. All these problems have to be faced. Not only are they occurring in the test but also in the west. People are not living in peace and harmony with each other; most of the time they are fighting with family, neighbours and friends. We are all looking for peace of mind. Some use drugs, alcohol or T.V. Many of the things we do are simply to pass the time and keep us busy so that we will not have to be alone with ourselves and face our restlessness and depression.

Yoga can offer a woman a higher purpose in life end ail that she needs to bring about a change in her mind. If she cannot enjoy herself in this material world, it is to yoga that she must turn. Yoga teaches her to look at life from a new viewpoint Relaxation and meditation help her to become positive and find peace within. This can be inherited by her child, thus she does mankind, the community and society in general a great service by contributing peace to this troubled world of today.

Changes that occur in the mother's womb are extraordinary and the forces that lie behind this growth and development will keep scientists busy for years to come. We can only marvel at the great beauty and order which regulates this pattern of life.

Biologists in America have studied mother's health and baby's growth by examining babies in the womb. They took electrocardiograms from which both the mother and baby's heart beats were classified. These showed that babies are very much in touch with the world outside. For example, if someone places a ringing bell against the mother's stomach, the baby's heart beats very fast. If the bell rings for some time, however, the baby will take the noise more calmly.

Medical science has recognized many important factors about the growth of the child in the womb. The developing foetus can and does react to noise and pressure. X-rays have been shown to adversely stimulate organs and glands in the baby's body. Excessive use of drugs, alcohol and nicotine disturb the mother's nervous system, adversely affecting the baby's growth. The results of using thalidomide, a once popular tranquillizer, are of course fully documented. Some doctors prescribed this drug for pregnant women and as a result children were born without fingers, toes, legs or arms.

Alcohol is toxic; it causes dilation of. the blood vessels and weakening of the capillaries which carry blood to the heart. Over-drinking results in cell damage within the mother's and child's body, especially to the heart and liver. The brain is also negatively affected, and lowered mentality can result. Tiredness and depression, well known symptoms during pregnancy, are increased by drinking. This artificial stimulation is enjoyable for a few hours, but on waking next day, the body metabolism is lowered, leaving one feeling tired and run down.

Nicotine, on the other hand, causes the stress handling sympathetic nervous system to produce body tension. Inhaling, the main action in smoking can also be experienced fully with pranayama, thus receiving more air into the lungs. Prana is free, smoking is time and money consuming.

Mothers who use drugs, alcohol and tobacco excessively give their children many deep samskaras or impressions that create psychological problems even before birth. Such children will have a greater tendency to take up these habits in later years. These habits can be eliminated by the help of yogic techniques using relaxation and meditation.

Emotional stress in the mother makes the foetus over active, and after birth such babies are restless and irritable. The mother's emotional, physical and mental attitude during pregnancy can be used to predict the baby's behaviour. Tests have found new clues as to how the personality and intelligence of the child is influenced while in the uterus.

When the mother experiences fear, her heart beat becomes irregular and adrenalin flows into the bloodstream. The baby is almost immediately effected by these 'environmental' changes.

Yoga teaches a pranayama technique which helps to overcome fear. Focus your awareness on the breath, and try to inhale and exhale through the left nostril only. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system so that the body energy is conserved. Even in times of emotional stress and strain this induces calmness. We know that the mother's steady beating heart has an extremely soothing effect on her baby. Calm peaceful music, soft sounds of nature, water flowing, simple practical living in a carefree manner - all these things are favourable influences for mother's environment and therefore for her baby. Instead of riding in the car, learn to walk wherever you can. This simple exercise will help stimulate the body's circulatory system and tune you in with nature. Take time to enjoy whatever your work or play involves. Simply be a witness as if you were acting in a play and the setting it your home. This will clean the cobwebs out of your mind just as you keep your house clean and neat.

Mothers must be sure that their baby is healthy and has a maximum chance for positive development. The growth potential of each infant is inherent in its genes, but if the environment is not favourable then growth can be stunted. If the mother is positive, strong and healthy, then the baby will be also. The most important factor of the child's development while in the uterus is whether the mother has an adequate supply of nutrients. This affects the baby's body, brain and whole being. Mothers who do not fulfil these basic requirements will find the highly sensitive child within their womb negatively affected. The mother's irritability causes the infant to be restless and distressed even before birth. The baby's personality is influenced so strongly by the mother's actions, reactions and environment that everything she does during her nine months of expectation has favourable or unfavourable effects on the growth and development of her child.

Swami Satyananda tells the story of when he was travelling some years ago from London to Belfast, Northern Ireland. A pregnant lady came to see him at the airport. There was a delay in the flight departure time and the stayed at the airport with him for about four hours discussing yoga and other spiritual topics. Ultimately they boarded the plane for Belfast but due to fog, the plane could not land and they had to return to London. She was with him all the way. There again they waited. Finally they got another flight to Belfast. He met the same lady again in Australia about a year ago and she had a nice daughter of five years. The moment the little girl saw Swamiji she just rushed up and jumped on his shoulders! She seemed to recognize him, how, he didn't know. He returned to Monghyr and after a few days the little girl also came. All the way she was telling her mother that he was going to live with Swamiji, and she never spoke of him as the guru but as her father. That was her feeling from the womb.

You can hear about many similar experiences from others, and many experiments have also been done on emotional experiences of the parents and their relation to the foetus. It has been established beyond doubt that the unborn child possesses a receptive apparatus of a complex nature by means of which it is able to incorporate knowledge gained in the womb into its later life.

Pregnancy is a challenge to the thinking mother of today. The influence of all her thoughts and actions on the unborn child is very powerful. The practice of yoga helps to stabilize the mother's emotions during pregnancy and keeps her mind positive, alert and calm during the whole mother-child relationship.