The impact of maternal voice upon the fetus: A systematic review

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Empirical studies suggest that the fetus reacts to maternal voice at the end of gestation. However it is important to clarify in which way and in which conditions the fetus discriminates the mother's voice against other voices. Objective: Systematic review of research about prenatal maternal voice and its impact upon the fetus. Methods: EBSCO, WEBSCIENCE and MEDLINE were searched using several keywords related with the objective. Eligibility criteria: empirical studies with maternal voice delivered before birth as stimulus and responses from the fetus as well as neonatal behavior. Results: We obtained 18 papers: a) 14 with samples without risk and 4 with samples at risk, b) 15 papers used exclusively fetal responses, 2 papers used fetal and neonatal responses and 1 paper used exclusively neonatal responses. About outcome measures, 5 papers used exclusively fetal cardiac responses, 3 used exclusively fetal motor responses, 4 used fetal cardiac and motor responses, 2 used fetal cardiac, motor and breathing responses and 1 used only fetal brain responses. Three papers observing neonatal responses used newborns’ head orientation and non-nutritive sucking. Conclusions: Fetal discrimination between maternal and other voices is observed through fetal cardiac, motor and brain responses. Fetal yawning decrease, mouth opening and the activation of the lower bank of the left temporal lobe seem to be among the most important indicators for this discrimination. Caution is advised in the interpretation of these results because several studies did not considered the control of important variables. Gestational age, baseline variables (fetal state, acoustic conditions and pre-stimulus time) and obstetrical conditions may enable or compromise fetal discrimination between maternal and other voices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-206
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Women’s Health Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Prenatal maternal voice
  • Fetal responses
  • Neonatal behavior
  • Fetal cardiac response
  • Fetal motor response
  • Fetal brain response


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