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4D scans show foetuses yawn in the womb

 This 4D ultrasound scan shows a foetus yawning in the womb at 24 weeks, in a study by Durham and Lancaster universities and released in Durham, northern England, November 21, 2012. — Reuters handout pics This 4D ultrasound scan shows a foetus yawning in the womb at 24 weeks, in a study by Durham and Lancaster universities and released in Durham, northern England, November 21, 2012. — Reuters handout picsLONDON, Nov 22 — 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.

Another dimension of the yawn.Another dimension of the yawn.Researchers who studied 4D scans of 15 healthy foetuses also say they think yawning is a developmental process that 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 yesterday, 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 was still unknown, but the findings suggested it might 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. — Reuters

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