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Maternal Exposure To Certain Light Affects Fetal Brain Development

Maternal Exposure To Certain Light Affects Fetal Brain Development

Brain development in a fetus is a delicate process. This is why experts advise pregnant women to show up to their scheduled prenatal appointments and take the necessary supplements, such as folic acid and iron. Interestingly, a scientific investigation revealed that exposing pregnant mothers to a certain type of light affects fetal brain development. What type of light helps, and what other factors should be considered? Find out here.

Right Light Affects Brain Development In A Fetus

An animal study conducted by Swedish and American researchers discovered that the type of light women are exposed to during pregnancy may influence fetal brain development.

What’s promising is that Opsin 3 appears to be important in the formation of brain cells and the development of the brain and spinal cord. Likewise, it also appears to play a role in the neural pathways that influence:

  • Pain
  • Movement
  • Vision
  • Olfaction
  • Memory
  • Emotion
  • Mood

The Implications Of The Study

The possibility that light exposure affects the brain development in a fetus may seem trivial, but experts say it’s significant.

According to Professor Lena Gunhaga at Umeå Centre for Molecular Medicine, Umeå University, the results of the study may indicate that the right kind of light stimulation during pregnancy may reduce the risk of neurological disorders in adulthood.

This could also be one of the reasons why multiple studies suggest that the risk of psychiatric and neurological disorders depends on the “seasonal time of birth.³” For instance, reports say people born late in winter seem to have an increased risk of affective psychosis⁴.

The bottom line is that the association between light stimulation and brain development in a fetus is worth looking further into.

Other Things That Affect The Brain Development Of A Fetus⁵

Long before discovering the possible effects of light stimulation during pregnancy, experts have already identified other factors that influence the brain development in a fetus.


For instance, being undernourished while pregnant has been shown to affect the child’s stress response once they reach young adulthood. Likewise, maternal overnutrition appears to negatively impact the baby’s executive functioning and neurodevelopment.


Infection during pregnancy is another factor. Case in point: pregnant mothers who developed polio, rubella, and measles seem to have an increased risk of schizophrenia in their offspring. Other infections, such as herpes, also indirectly affect neurodevelopment by increasing the risk of preterm birth.


Finally, the stress in mothers also affects the brain development in a fetus. Children exposed to high levels of stress while they were in the womb are at a heightened risk of various mental conditions, including schizophrenia, depression, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They might also have behavioral and emotional problems.

How To Nurture Fetal Brain Development

Like mentioned earlier, prenatal visits are important. Showing up to your appointment means the doctor can see if your baby is growing and developing as expected. It’s also crucial to take prescribed supplements and medications. Folic acid, in particular, plays a significant role in the brain development of a fetus.

Also, mothers should prioritize having a healthy diet. They must protect themselves from diseases and prevent exposure to toxins. Some important steps to take are to quit smoking and drinking alcohol.

Mothers should also prioritize their mental health. If they experienced trauma, anxiety, depression, or are regularly under high levels of stress, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional.

Finally, if you have questions concerning your child’s brain or overall development, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your doctor.

Learn more about Pregnancy here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


1. Right light on the mother’s belly may be important to the fetus, https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/09/210920121749.htm, Accessed January 3, 2022

2. Does blue light restore human epidermal barrier function via activation of Opsin during cutaneous wound healing?, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30168605/, Accessed January 3, 2022

3. Season of birth and depression in adulthood: Revisiting historical forerunner evidence for in-utero effects, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5976843/, Accessed January 3, 2022

4. Winter birth, https://library.neura.edu.au/bipolar-disorder/risk-factors-bipolar-disorder/non-genetic-risk-factors-bipolar-disorder/winter-birth/, Accessed January 3, 2022

5. Maternal influences on fetal brain development: The role of nutrition, infection and stress, and the potential for intergenerational consequences, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378378220306514, Accessed January 3, 2022

6. Early Brain Development and Health, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html, Accessed January 3, 2022

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated 3 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Bianchi Mendoza, R.N.