Fetal kicks help detect malformations

By Julie Griffiths on 29 January 2018 Fetal Abnormalities / Birth Defects Research

Researchers have found that monitoring fetal movements in pregnant women can help in detecting fetal musculoskeletal malformations.

The research team with Imperial College London and Great Ormond Street Hospital analysed MRI scans, which allowed them to create computerised models of fetal movement. 

The models produced animated representations of a fetus inside the uterus as it stretched, kicked and moved around, allowing the team to track how much force the fetus exerted.

The study found that the stresses caused by forceful kicking is like a form of exercise for the fetus and can help with bone and joint development. Abnormal or absent movements were implicated in multiple congenital disorders.

The study also found that fetal kick force increases significantly from 20 to 30 weeks’ gestation, with the fetus able to exert up to 4kg of force against the uterus walls at 30 weeks, before decreasing towards term due to a lack of space.

The team concludes that by revealing a potential link between fetal biomechanics and skeletal malformations, their work will stimulate future research in tissue engineering and mechanobiology. 

The study was published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Read more here.