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Why do babies kick in the womb?

20 March 2018

 
Babies don't just kick to keep you up at night

Science has the answer!

Feeling your baby kick in the womb for the first time is an exciting moment. Mothers start feeling movements between 16-25 weeks gestation (though spontaneous movement starts at 7 weeks!) But while babies moving around is accepted as a normal part of pregnancy, it hasn't been clear exactly why it happens.

However, scientists now think they've found the answer. According to a new study published in the journal Development, scientists at Trinity College Dublin found that babies move around because they are trying to develop strong bones and joints.

Building strong bones

From their research on chick and mouse embryos, the team found that "there are some key molecular interactions that are stimulated by movement and which guide the cells and tissues of the embryo to build a functionally robust yet malleable skeleton. If an embryo doesn't move, a vital signal may be lost or an inappropriate one delivered in error, which can lead to the development of brittle bones or abnormal joints."

...and joints

"Our new findings show that in the absence of embryonic movement the cells that should form articular cartilage receive incorrect molecular signals, where one type of signal is lost while another inappropriate signal is activated in its place," explained Paula Murphy, a professor of zoology at Trinity College Dublin who co-led the study.  "In short, the cells receive the signal that says 'make bone' when they should receive the signal that says 'make cartilage'."

So it appears that all the kicking that this mum has experienced isn't just to keep her up at night. It's just as well the movement is beneficial - another recent study found that a baby's kick has more than 10 lbs of force - more than hitting a tennis ball! 

 

News in brief:

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