Study: Unborn babies can differentiate touch, pain in womb

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Study: Unborn babies can differentiate touch, pain in womb

A new study from England finds unborn children have the capacity to differentiate touch from pain in the womb and they are able to do so as early as 28-35 weeks into pregnancy. Other studies have shown unborn children can experience pain much earlier.

Conducted by researchers at the University College London, the study found unborn children can quite easily feel pain no later than the 35th week of pregnancy. The scientists determine this by using EEG to record brain activity in response to a painful stimulus and comparing the responses from a positive touch versus a painful prick in the foot.

Here are more details from a report in

“Babies can distinguish painful stimuli as different from general touch from around 35 to 37 weeks gestation — just before an infant would normally be born,” Lorenzo Fabrizi, lead author of the study, told ABC News about the study published in the journal Current Biology.

The babies the researchers evaluated were between the ages of 28 and 35 weeks into pregnancy and they all showed the same increased levels of brain activities to both the touch and painful prick, but the study found babies at 35 weeks gestation have a greater brain activity level to the prick than the touch.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who is now a fellow with the Family Research Council, told LifeNews that fetal pain is not a new concept and that it is measured much earlier than this study suggests.

He also cautions about the interpretation of the study, pointing out that an ABC News report saying “Babies Feel Pain at 35 to 37 Weeks of Development, Experts Say” is “inaccurate and misleading.”

“It’s important for people to understand that the study suggests unborn babies can differentiate touch from pain at 35 weeks,” Prentice said. “But numerous studies document that unborn babies can certainly feel pain well before this point in their life.

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