Cute And Potentially Useful Yawns

You may have seen your unborn baby yawning during an ultrasound scan. As cute as it is, researchers say that it may indicate how healthy a little one is before he’s born.

Mom and Dad at sonogram

Catching a glimpse of your baby’s yawn, before birth, is priceless. But a group of researchers in the UK say that it may also be an indicator of how healthy a baby is.

What it means

Scientists at Durham and Lancaster Universities have found that babies who yawn less as their due date approaches may be healthier than their peers who yawn more. The researchers aren’t totally sure why, but they can certainly speculate. "It may be that, in order to get part of the brain to mature in the correct way, you need a certain stimulus, and yawning might be that stimulus," said Nadja Reissland, a fetal development specialist.

The sample size was quite small -- 15 unborn babies in all -- but the research showed similar yawning rates across all babies. Boys and girls yawned at similar rates, and those rates steadily declined from twice every 10 minutes at 24 weeks gestation to none at all by 36 weeks gestation.

The study shows that these infants, who were all healthy, yawned less as the pregnancy progressed, but in a baby that was less healthy, the rate might not slow down as rapidly, or at all. "Unlike us, foetuses do not yawn contagiously, nor do they yawn because they are sleepy. Instead, the frequency of yawning in the womb may be linked to the maturing of the brain early in gestation," Reissland said.

What about your baby?

The scientists used significant time to analyze each frame of the scans, which lasted 20 minutes each. If you don’t see your little one yawning on “camera,” you don’t have to worry. This research may be useful in the future, but it’s likely going to be some time before routine sonograms utilize this feature, if they do at all. It may be reserved for high-risk pregnancies, also.

More on sonograms

Is it a girl? How an ultrasound can tell
How long does a routine ultrasound take?
Ultrasound basics for expecting moms

Tags: sonogram

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