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Synchronising heartbeats could detect problems in the womb

A breathing exercise for mums-to-be could be used to diagnose an unborn baby’s heart and lung problems as early as 16 weeks into pregnancy

Posted: 21 July 2010
by Kimberley Smith

The way your baby’s heart beats could help doctors diagnose heart or lung disorders by 16 weeks. Scientists in Aberdeen are researching a test that may help doctors diagnose, and potentially treat, cardiovascular conditions in the womb.

A mum’s heartbeat is usually slower than her baby’s. Researchers found that if a mum-to-be breathed rhythmically, in time to a computer-generated clock, her heartbeat would synchronise with her baby’s. If this doesn’t happen, there could be a problem with her baby’s heart or lungs.

“Pregnant mothers often report an awareness of a bond with their child but until now there has been no hard evidence to suggest this bond is reflected in the interaction of their heartbeats,” said Dr Marco Thiel, from Aberdeen University. “The foetus can sense the rhythmical shift in the mother’s heartbeat and adapts its own heartbeat accordingly,” he explained.

While the findings are preliminary, the researchers hope it will enable early intervention for babies who will go on to develop with medical conditions. Others in the medical profession have called for further research.

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