Author(s): Nowlan NC
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Abstract Foetal movements commence at seven weeks of gestation, with the foetal movement repertoire including twitches, whole body movements, stretches, isolated limb movements, breathing movements, head and neck movements, jaw movements (including yawning, sucking and swallowing) and hiccups by ten weeks of gestational age. There are two key biomechanical aspects to gross foetal movements; the first being that the foetus moves in a dynamically changing constrained physical environment in which the freedom to move becomes increasingly restricted with increasing foetal size and decreasing amniotic fluid. Therefore, the mechanical environment experienced by the foetus affects its ability to move freely. Secondly, the mechanical forces induced by foetal movements are crucial for normal skeletal development, as evidenced by a number of conditions and syndromes for which reduced or abnormal foetal movements are implicated, such as developmental dysplasia of the hip, arthrogryposis and foetal akinesia deformation sequence. This review examines both the biomechanical effects of the physical environment on foetal movements through discussion of intrauterine factors, such as space, foetal positioning and volume of amniotic fluid, and the biomechanical role of gross foetal movements in human skeletal development through investigation of the effects of abnormal movement on the bones and joints. This review also highlights computational simulations of foetal movements that attempt to determine the mechanical forces acting on the foetus as it moves. Finally, avenues for future research into foetal movement biomechanics are highlighted, which have potential impact for a diverse range of fields including foetal medicine, musculoskeletal disorders and tissue engineering.
This article was published in Eur Cell Mater
and referenced in Journal of Glycobiology