Scans uncover secrets of the womb
Originally Published on BBC.co.uk


A 12 week fetus yawning in the womb

A new type of ultrasound scan has produced vivid pictures of a 12 week-old foetus "walking" in the womb.

The new images also show foetuses apparently yawning and rubbing its eyes.

The scans, pioneered by Professor Stuart Campbell at London's Create Health Clinic, are much more detailed than conventional ultrasound.

Professor Campbell has previously released images of unborn babies appearing to smile.

He has compiled a book of the images called Watch Me Grow.

Conventional ultrasound, usually offered to mothers at 12 and 20 weeks, produces 2D images of the developing foetus.

These are very useful for helping doctors to measure and assess the growth of the foetus, but convey very little information about behaviour.

Complex behaviour

Professor Campbell has perfected a technique which not only produces detailed 3D images, but records foetal movement in real time.

He says his work has been able to show for the first time that the unborn baby engages in complex behaviour from an early stage of its development.

Professor Campbell told the BBC: "This is a new science for understanding and mapping out the behaviour of the baby.

"Maybe in the future it will help us understand and diagnose genetic disease, maybe even conditions like cerebral palsy which puzzles the medical profession as to why it occurs."

The images have shown:

* From 12 weeks, unborn babies can stretch, kick and leap around the womb - well before the mother can feel movement

* From 18 weeks, they can open their eyes although most doctors thought eyelids were fused until 26 weeks

* From 26 weeks, they appear to exhibit a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccoughing, and sucking.

Until recently it was thought that smiling did not start until six weeks after birth.


Smiling From The Womb
Originally Published on sky.com



Pioneering scanning techniques have produced astonishing images from inside the womb which show babies apparently smiling and crying. Experts believe the breakthrough could lead to advances in baby health for a whole range of conditions, including Down's Syndrome. The pictures offer a new insight into foetal behaviour. The ultra-sound scanning techniques capture images which show the foetuses yawn, blink, suck their fingers and seem to cry and smile.

Up to now, doctors did not think infants made such expressions until after birth and believed they learned to smile by copying their mother. The procedure has been pioneered by London obstetrician Professor Stuart Campbell at the Create Health Centre for Reproduction and Advanced Technology. His pictures reveal foetuses moving their limbs at just eight weeks.

The new techniques, known as 3D and 4D scanning, allow for far more detailed examination of the foetus. "There are many questions that can now be investigated," said Prof Campbell. "Do babies with genetic problems such as Downs Syndrome have the same pattern of activity as normal babies? "Does the foetus smile because it is happy, or cry because it has been disturbed by some event in the womb? "Why does a foetus blink when we assume it's dark inside the uterus?"