MRI childbirth video sheds light on how labour works

The birth in in earlier stages
The birth in in later stages

Scientists have captured the first video of a childbirth using an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner, giving us an unprecedented view of the process.

The images depict a cross-section of the mother's body - as if she were split down the middle. The light-grey area shows the baby's head making its way through the birth canal.

The astonishing images were taken at Berlin's Charite Hospital in November 2011. A 24-year-old mother volunteered to spend the final 45 minutes of her labour inside an MRI scanner to capture the video.

Doctors turned the scanner off just as the amniotic sack surrounding the baby opened so that the noise - which is quite loud - did not disturb the newborn baby. The mother also wore earmuffs to block out the buzzing sound.

A nurse attends to a new MRI scanner at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool Credit: Bruce Adams/Daily Mail/PA Wire

Researchers hope the video will help to explain the relationship between the movement of the baby and its position as it travels through the birth canal.

In particular, they hope it will shed light on why some 15% of women need Caesarian sections because the baby fails to move along the birth canal. But it will also have applications for natural births.

An assistant looks at a monitor showing MRI scans of the baby being born at the Charite hospital in Berlin Credit: REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz

MRI scanners use powerful magnets to create a magnetic field that makes certain atoms in the body visible to radio waves. The process is considered safer than having an X-ray.

An MRI scanner was also used to capture this video of a foetus kicking and punching inside the womb.