We now know that babies start learning about the world outside of the womb while they are still inside the womb. They respond to external stimuli, such as sounds, a mother's movement, light, and big siblings pressing on mom's belly.
But what about crying? It seems like it would be difficult to tell if a baby is actually crying in the womb, thanks to all that amniotic fluid and the fact that a baby in the womb might not have much to complain about—after all, she's got a pretty cosy set-up going on in there.
The short answer is that yes, babies do cry in the womb, but scientists aren't sure to what exact degree because obviously, crying is not the same inside uterus for the baby. A baby crying in-utero might look a little different than a baby crying outside of the womb, for example.
In a 2004 study, researchers identified 5 total states that a baby has: quiet sleep, active state, quiet awake, active awake, and crying. Of those 5 states, only the first four were thought to also exist inside the womb. But the study, which was observing the fetal reaction to exposure to tobacco and cocaine, actually recorded what appeared to show a baby in the womb crying.
Interestingly enough, one of the babies actually exhibited the crying behaviour right after labour started in the mother. This makes sense when you think about—the baby was starting quite the wild ride in the womb!
Ultimately, based on what the study found, the term "neonatal cry" was coined
A baby being able to cry demonstrates that his or her brain and nervous system and body are working correctly to accomplish crying. So a cry is much more than meets the eye—a cry actually represents that your baby is:
*Recognizing some sort of outside stimuli happening
*Processing that the stimuli are something potentially harmful or threatening and thus a negative stimulus
*Reacting to the stimuli through a set of multiple pathways, from physically moving away to trying to vocalize to brain sensory awareness