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Laterality of foetal self-touch in relation to maternal stress

Reissland, N.; Aydin, E.; Francis, B.; Exley, E.


E. Aydin

B. Francis

E. Exley


This longitudinal observational study investigated whether foetuses change their hand preference with gestational age, and also examined the effects of maternal stress on lateralized foetal self-touch. Following ethical approval, fifteen healthy foetuses (eight girls and seven boys) were scanned four times from 24 to 36 weeks gestation. Self-touch behaviours which resulted in a touch of the foetal face/head were coded in 60 scans for 10 min and analysed in terms of frequency of the foetuses using left and right hands to touch their face. The joint effects of foetal age, stress and sex on laterality were assessed. We modelled the proportion of right self-touches for each foetal scan using a generalized linear mixed model, taking account of the repeated measures design. There was substantial variability in hand preference between foetuses. However, there was no significant increase in the proportion of right-handed touches with foetal age. No sex differences in handedness were identified. However, maternally reported stress level was significantly positively related to foetal left-handed self-touches (odds ratio 0.915; p < .0001). This longitudinal study provides important new insights into the effect of recent maternal stress on foetal predominant hand use during self-touch.


Reissland, N., Aydin, E., Francis, B., & Exley, E. (2015). Laterality of foetal self-touch in relation to maternal stress. Laterality, 20(1), 82-94.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 28, 2014
Online Publication Date Jun 3, 2014
Publication Date Jan 1, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 3, 2014
Journal Laterality
Print ISSN 1357-650X
Electronic ISSN 1464-0678
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 1
Pages 82-94
Keywords Foetus, Self\-touch, Laterality, Handedness, Maternal stress, Foetal age.