Surveys on prenatal memory

It might not be small at all that the number of children who said, “I have memory while I was in the womb.” However, it is just recently when people started to pay attention to prenatal memory. There had been no large-scale survey of it until I searched it in 2002.

I got interested in prenatal memory around 1999. As far as I know, there were few surveys on prenatal memory and percentages of children who have it.
That is why I found the necessity of the survey. I have started to distribute questionnaires to mothers since 2000.

I started first survey from August to December in 2000.
The question was as below.
[Do your children have prenatal or perinatal memory?]
I sent a questionnaire to some maternity hospital, child development center and mothers who came to my Ikekawa clinic for diagnosis and treatment. I got 79 people’s replies.

The result was something like this.

Forty-two children have prenatal memory (53%).
Thirty-two children have perinatal memory (41%).

The percentages of those children might be bigger than the result because people who were not interested prenatal memory did not answer the questionnaire in the first place.
Exact percentages were not been able to reveal but what children talked was so interesting.

Children said,

“It was bright.”
“It was dark.”

There were comments regarding brightness at most.

“I was being curled up.”
“I was doing headstand.”

Those comments are with regard to movements and poses.

“It smelled bad.”
“It was warm.”
“It was cold.”
“It was good fun.”
“It was lonely there.”
“It was hard.”

There were also comments as above. Some children had prenatal memory of emotion as a fetus as well as all five senses.

In September 2001, I presented the comments that 79 children answered the questionnaire at the medical workshop, which is the 16th workshop of Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for the Improvement of Medical Care.
So many people read the newspaper that featured this workshop. The company of the newspaper invited me as a speaker of "Childcare seminar of childcare-summer-university" that the company has taken place since more than 50 years ago at Suwa city in Nagano prefecture.

Furthermore, in 2002, I carried out the survey of prenatal memory at Suwa city in Nagano prefecture. It covered all children who go to a nursery school. In 2003, I hold a survey, which was same as Suwa city, in cooperation with Shiojiri city in Nagano prefecture.

I presented the result of the survey on Suwa city at the 17th FIGO World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics in April 2003. As for Shiojiri city, I presented the result at the meeting of "Baby science" (Workshop of newborn child's ability and the way of medical care of perinatal period) that took place at the Kyoto National Conference Center on April 25 in 2004.

Two surveys of Suwa and Shiojiri city are more reliable because objects of those surveys were not only mothers who are interested in prenatal and perinatal memory, but also normal 3061 parents whose children go to ordinary kindergarten and nursery school.
It might be impossible to hold such a large-scale survey in the U.S. and current Japan. Those countries are strict to take use of personal information. In that sense, those surveys are so useful in worldwide.

Outlines of the surveys are as below.

Suwa city from August to September 2002
Shiojiri city in December 2003
Suwa city (Total Population 52,000) 17 all kindergartens
Shiojiri city (Total Population 65,000) 19 all kindergartens
<Average age>
Mothers 33, 7±4.4 years old, children: 4.0±1.4 years old
<The number of sending/collected questionnaire>
Suwa city: sending 1,773 collected 838 the collected rate 47.3%
Shiojiri city: sending 1,828 collected 782 the collected rate 42.8%
Total: sending 3,601 collected 1,620 the collected rate 45.0%
- Age of a mother and a child
- Sex of children
- Whether children have prenatal/perinatal memory
- If the answer is “Yes”, what age and conditions did they talk about that memory?
- If children do not answer, have they already forgotten or do they hesitate to answer?
- Past conditions of pregnant mother
- Easy or hard childbirth
- How to give a birth to a child ?(natural, caesarean section, used aspirators or forceps)
- Whether mother has prenatal/perinatal memory

Let me summarize what this large-scale surveys implies.


(1) When have they started to talk about prenatal memory?

Most children talked about it when they were two or three years old. Over 4 years old, there are few.
Two 0 year old children answered that they have prenatal memory. In these cases, parents asked a question, "Where were you born from?" Children answered it, pointing their finger at stomach.

0〜1 year old  2 children
1〜2 years old  13 children
2〜3 years old 142 children
3〜4 years old  187 children
4〜5 years old  56 children
5〜6 years old  23 children
6〜7 years old  5 children

(2) Is there any difference between boys and girls?

There was no sexual difference in regards to recognition of prenatal memory among 1620 answers.

Prenatal memory 268 boys / 254 girls
Perinatal memory 174 boys / 158 girls

(3) What sort of conditions do children remember prenatal memory?

Most cases are moments when they take a bath or get to sleep. Apparently children start to talk about prenatal memory when they are embraced by the warmness of their mother or they are being relaxed. Those moments remind them of comfort feeling of being inside the womb.