A NEW study has found that a foetus in the womb can adjust its heart beat to synchronise with its mother but in cases where no synchronisation occurs, it may signal a problem with the foetus’s development.
According to scientists who made the breakthrough, their discovery of this previously unknown connection has paved the way for a new technique to detect developmental problems during pregnancy — opening up the potential for early medical intervention while the child is still in the womb.
Dr Marco Thiel, one of a team of physicists from the University of Aberdeen who worked on the study, said the synchronisation referred to here is not actually a one-to-one mother-baby beat (ie the mother’s heartbeat is not at the ‘galloping horses’ rate of her unborn baby) but a consistent ratio of heartbeats.
“For instance, the foetus may have five heartbeats to the mother’s three, but the rate remains constant over time,” Dr Thiel said.
Volunteers in the study were asked to breathe in time with a computer-generated clock. They were asked to inhale and exhale in time with the ticks of the clock, which were set at specific speeds.
The data showed when the mother was breathing rhythmically, as opposed to naturally, heartbeat of mother and child synchronised.
“If the baby’s heart doesn’t react in the right way... there may be a possibility to intervene during pregnancy and fix the heart which dramatically increases the odds that the foetus will survive birth,” Dr Thiel said.
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