Do Babies Cry in the Womb?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Shruti Kainth (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
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Parents-to-be are often curious to see their baby’s activities inside the mother’s womb. They depend highly on the ultrasounds and the specialist’s interpretations to know what their little one is up to in there. Mothers-to-be, on the other hand, can experience a lot of things when the foetus moves inside them. Many of them have been delighted feeling their kicks inside the womb. But, is kicking all that the baby does inside? Well, not really. Everyone knows foetuses move inside the womb, but, did you know they cry as well? Let’s find out if they really do!

Do Unborn Babies Really Cry in the Womb?

Babies do cry in the womb, but it isn’t necessarily how they would cry once they are out in the world. Scientists are yet to determine the degree of this, but research shows that human foetuses display different states inside their mother’s womb. The previously known behaviours were active awake, quiet sleep, quiet awake and active state. The fifth state discovered in recent times was that of crying. It is believed to be a milestone in terms of your foetus’ development inside your womb. But, how and why does it happen? Read on to know more.

How Does a Baby Respond in the Womb?

Babies start learning techniques to deal with the world outside while they are still inside their mother’s womb. During a study, it was found that a 16-week-old foetus with under-developed ears responded to sounds. The study also revealed that foetuses respond by kicking when they are spoken to and touched. Babies generally react to stimuli which lie outside the womb, such as light, sound, the mother’s movements, and even the slightest of physical pressure on the mother’s womb. Your foetus can move around, get startled, urinate and even do a somersault.

Another study conducted with a group of pregnant women in their third trimester revealed how their foetuses reacted to soft music that was played with the speakers placed close to the mothers’ bellies. The experiment also revealed that interruption in music triggered responses similar to crying in 10 of the foetuses. This evidence suggested that babies cry in the womb when triggered by external stimuli.

When & Why Does a Foetus Start Crying?

By the twentieth week, the foetus already knows her breathing movements. She can move her jaws to open her mouth, can quiver her chin, and extend her tongue. By this time, she can even swallow. By the beginning of the twenty-fourth week, babies become capable of producing crying sounds and respond to noises in the external environment.

You might still be wondering why babies cry in the womb. Just as it happens with newborns and toddlers, babies in the womb cry to communicate and to show their displeasure. So, what is it that they want to communicate? Well, your unborn baby may cry to communicate her hunger, fatigue, fear, or just to let you know that she needs to be hugged.

Let’s now take a look at the signs unborn babies show while crying.

Indications That Your Unborn Baby Is Crying

At times, you can witness an unborn crying inside your womb while getting an ultrasound. The signs could be –

  • An extended breath with an open mouth and lowering of the tongue.
  • The baby getting engaged in faster breathing with a pause between inhalation and exhalation for settling.
  • Puffing and trembling of the lower lips.
  • Opening the mouth, depressing the tongue, and taking irregular breaths several times before exhaling and then settling down while crying.
  • Tightening the chest with trembling lips and rapid breaths, and then settling after tilting the head.


So now you know that some of your foetus’ actions inside the womb can indicate she is crying. Let’s take a look at what really happens when babies cry in the womb and what the main takeaway for parents is.

What Happens When Babies Cry in the Womb?

When a baby cries inside her mother’s womb, it is indicative of well-developed coordination between her brain, her nervous system, and her body. Improved coordination is a sign that your baby’s growth is adequate, and her responses to external stimuli are developing.

Crying inside the womb could also indicate one or all of the following:

  • Well developed facial muscles.
  • Improvement in the foetus’ breathing technique.
  • Non-vocal crying abilities.
  • Ability to recognise external stimuli, especially sound and touch.

Some parents also wonder if they can hear their baby cry in the womb? Studies have revealed that crying can be silent and loud. When your baby cries inside the womb, she uses the silent or non-vocal version of crying. This type of crying can be recognised through body movements and facial expressions.

Clearly, a crying foetus indicates adequate growth and development. And, that’s one reason why a foetus should respond to external stimuli. However, there are other reasons why it is important for a foetus to cry. Read on to know more.

Why It Is Important for a Foetus to Cry

Crying helps in the development of your baby’s physical and psychological aspects. It helps in the expansion of her lungs and indicates that the organs have begun to coordinate and function properly. The foetus’ movements, including the one for crying, portray coordination between the brain and the rest of the body.

Also, your foetus communicates with you through crying. When your baby cries, it is an expression of distress. If, after watching your child crying through an ultrasound, you pat your own belly, your young one is likely to understand that you care. This understanding will pave its way for the development of a sense of care and responsibility.

We often connect crying only with displeasure or unhappiness. But, scientifically, crying denotes proper functioning of the brain and the body. If you do happen to see your baby crying inside the womb, do not get perturbed as it mostly symbolises vitality. It is an important indicator of your foetus’ growth and development, and implies her motor skills are working well too. It will also prepare her to react appropriately after birth to any stimuli that may cause displeasure.


Also Read:

Healthy and Unhealthy Signs of Baby in the Womb
Talking to Your Baby in Womb

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