This is a joint project with the Developmental Biomechanics Lab

Evidence from children with disorders of the nerves or muscles strongly suggests that a baby’s movements in the womb, such as kicking, are critical for the normal development of the skeleton, and are particularly important for joint shape. As abnormal joint shapes are linked to an increased risk of osteoarthritis, it is possible that activities that occur in the womb could significantly affect health much later in life. Despite knowing that kicking during pregnancy is an important part of the development process, the mechanics of these movements are still poorly understood. 

Fetal
Schematic of the relationship between the three methods employed to investigate fetal biomechanics: (a) tracking of fetal joint movements, (b) FE model of effect of displacement on the uterus (stress shown) and (c) musculoskeletal model to predict intramuscular force

This research project combines recent advances in MRI technology with a range of novel computational techniques to provide a window on the womb, allowing us to measure these movements for the first time. By developing models of these movements we can calculate the strength of a baby’s kick, and investigate the link between how a baby kicks and the development of musculoskeletal and joint diseases. 

 

Publications

Further details of the work are given in: 

Researchers

Dr Stefaan Verbruggen
Dr Niamh Nowlan
Dr Andrew Phillips