Simulator may allow birth rehearsal
Difficult births could soon be rehearsed in advance using a "virtual birthing simulator" being developed by British scientists.
The computer software, tailored to individual patients, will take account of factors such as the shape of a mother's body and the baby's position in the womb.
Project leader Dr Rudy Lapeer, from the University of East Anglia's School of Computing Sciences, said: "We are creating a forward-engineered simulation of childbirth using 3D graphics to simulate the sequence of movements as a baby descends through the pelvis during labour.
"Users will be able to input key anatomical data such as the size and shape of the mother's pelvis, and the baby's head and torso. By doing this, you will be able to set different bespoke scenarios for both the mother and baby."
The simulation software will use ultrasound readings to re-create a three-dimensional model of a baby's skull and body, as well as the mother's body and pelvis.
Scientists are also programming in the force from the mother pushing during labour, and even modelling a pair of virtual midwife's hands which can interact with the baby's head.
"Because this programme is patient-specific, doctors and midwives will be able to see how a birth may take place before it has happened on a case-by-case basis," said Dr Lapeer, who presented the research at the International Conference on E-Health and Bioengineering in Iasi, Romania. "For example, you would be able to see if a baby's shoulders will get stuck.
"We hope that this could help to avoid complicated births altogether by guiding people in the medical profession to advise on Caesarean sections where necessary."