June 27, 2012 -- This is not your average birth video. German researchers have used Magnetic Resonance Imaging to peer inside a woman's body during labor, a medical first that sheds light on the birth process.
The researchers, from Charité University Hospital in Berlin, created the 30-second movie using cinematic MRI, a technique that strings together snapshots from deep inside the body.
"Knowledge about the mechanism of labor is based on assumptions and radiographic studies performed decades ago," the researchers wrote in their study, published in the June issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology.
The video shows the mother's final push and her baby's swift arrival in the world, providing anatomical clues that could help guide doctors during tricky deliveries.
"For the vast majority of women, letting nature take its course is a pretty good way to give birth," said Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, division chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. "But it's interesting to find ways to understand it better. And if this helps us learn ways to avoid Cesarean section and have babies come out vaginally, there could be some benefit."
Greenfield said the movie is "fascinating," but was even more impressed by its star's willingness to give birth in an MRI machine.
"It's just so generous that she would be willing to support science by sharing something so personal and private," she said. "I imagine she'd had lots of babies before she knew how she was going to handle it."
Cinematic MRI has also been used to study twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a rare condition in which one identical twin gets blood from the other inside the womb. And in 1999, Dutch researchers used the technique to glimpse inside the body during sex.