LONDON Growing into a fully formed human being is a long process, and scientists have found that unborn babies not only hiccup, swallow and stretch in the womb, they yawn too.
Researchers who studied 4D scans of 15 healthy foetuses also said they think yawning is a developmental process which could potentially give doctors a new way to check on a baby's health.
While some scientists have previously suggested that foetuses yawn, others disagree and say it is nothing more than a developing baby opening and stretching its mouth.
But writing in the journal PLOS ONE on Wednesday, British researchers said their study was able to clearly distinguish yawning from "non-yawn mouth opening" based on how long the mouth was open.
The researchers did this by using 4D video footage to examine all the times when foetuses opened their mouths.
Nadja Reissland of Durham University's department of Psychology, who led the study, said the function and importance of yawning in foetuses is still unknown, but the findings suggest it may be linked to foetal development and could provide a further indication of the health of the unborn baby.
"Unlike us, foetuses do not yawn contagiously, nor do they yawn because they are sleepy," she said. "Instead, the frequency of yawning in the womb may be linked to the maturing of the brain early in gestation."
The study was carried out on eight female and seven male foetuses from 24 to 36 weeks gestation. The researchers found that yawning declined from 28 weeks and that there was no significant difference in how often boys and girls yawned.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Paul Casciato)
Trending On Reuters
In Rohit Dhawan's "Dishoom", the opening credits roll to a rap song mouthed by two brawny protagonists who describe themselves as "simple" men disappointed in love who prefer home food to eating in five-star hotels. With one disclaimer: these otherwise meek men turn violent if someone doesn't stand up while India's national anthem is playing, criticizes the country or harasses a woman. Full Article