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Only a few years ago, pregnancy ultrasound scans were two-dimensional, black and white, grainy images that were indecipherable to anyone except to the sonographer taking them. Then came 4D scanning and it opened up the world of the womb in breath-taking clarity. For the first time, parents could see what their baby looked like and in dazzling colour.

The advent of this new window on the womb has enabled doctors, scientists and parents alike to observe foetal behaviour and get a glimpse of an unborn baby’s activities.

Babies from only 12 weeks gestation have been seen mimicking ‘walking’ by making stepping movements that scientists say is practise and preparation for life in the outside world. They have also been observed leaping around and stretching.

These revolutionary scans also proved that doctors were wrong when they showed babies opening and closing their eyes from as early as 18 weeks. Previously, obstetricians had said this was impossible until 26 weeks and that the eyelids were fused shut.

They were also seen yawning and rubbing their eyes.

From the age of 24 weeks, unborn babies begin to practise facial expressions they will need to form relationships and communicate with others. Expressions include crying, signs of pain and even smiling, which was thought not to develop until six weeks post-birth. Now it appears that smiling is a skill that is rehearsed weeks before delivery. This particular skill is vital to survival. On an evolutionary level, a baby has to appear appealing to his caregivers in order for them to provide care for him.

What science doesn’t know yet is whether these expressions are autonomic and are merely practise or whether the babies actually feel what they are expressing, but as the technology develops, it shouldn’t be long before we find out.

To book a 4D private pregnancy scan in London, you can contact The Women’s Wellness Centre for a bonding experience you’ll never forget.

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The contents on this site is for information only, and is not meant to substitute the advice of your own physician or other medical professional.