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The emergence of fetal behavior 1. qualitative aspects


, : The emergence of fetal behavior 1. qualitative aspects. Early Human Development 7(4): 301-322

The emergence of spontaneous fetal motility during the first 20 wk of gestation was studied longitudinally in 11 healthy nulliparae, using real-time ultrasound. The onset and developmental course of spontaneously generated specific fetal movement patterns were studied. Observations of 60 min duration were repeated weekly from 7 to 15 wk and at 16/17 and 18/19 wk. The qualitative aspects of fetal motility and posture were analyzed during video recording. Sixteen distinct movement patterns (just discernible movements; startle; general movements; hiccup; breathing; isolated arm or leg movements; isolated retroflexion/rotation and anteflexion of the head; jaw movements; sucking and swallowing; hand-face-contact; stretch; yawn; rotation), closely resembling those observed in preterm and fullterm newborn infants, were distinguished and a detailed description is presented. The 1st movements were observed at 7.5 wk postmenstrual age. A scatter of 2 wk was found for the ages at which frequently occurring movement patterns could be observed for the 1st time. By the age of 15 wk all 16 movement patterns could be observed. There were no major changes between 8 and 20 wk in the appearance of the different movements, which meant that they were easy to recognize at all ages studied. A systematic assessment of position and posture showed a preference for the supine position before 16 wk, and for the lateral position after 16 wk. There was no consistent intra-individual preference for position or posture. Two specific motor patterns could be identified as causing either somersault or rotation around the longitudinal axis. The number of changes in fetal position increases from 10 wk onwards, reaches a peak at 13-15 wk and decreases after 17 wk.

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