Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Push Factors

MRI scan during labour reveals how the baby's skull and brain changes shape

09 June 2019

Push Factors

Putting it mildly, a woman in labour has a lot on her mind. So spare a thought for several women who had MRI scans just before childbirth, to see the effects on baby’s brain. It’s well known that foetal skull bones reshape in the last stages of delivery – a temporary rearrangement to help baby navigate mum’s cervix and avoid obstruction or labour dystocia. Yet in these computer models, generated from MRI scans of babies before labour (top row) and just before pushing (bottom row), their brains have changed shape too, moulding to the skull changes as mother and baby get ready. All these children were born healthy, yet haemorrhages occur in up to 43% of vaginal deliveries. Scientists are wondering if MRI could be a useful tool to help parents and medical staff decide upon alternatives, like caesarean section, based on changes to the brain during these crucial moments.

Written by John Ankers

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