Scientists discover new contraction but it doesn't mean baby is due
London - Heavily pregnant women are used to looking out for contractions which signal their baby is on the way.
Now scientists have discovered a new type of contraction that occurs long before childbirth.
Experts say it is linked to a possible risk of pre-eclampsia – a condition which can lead to babies being born earlier and smaller. Researchers add that it is different from so-called "false labour" pains which are common in healthy pregnancies but can worry women into thinking they are about to give birth.
The discovery was made by scientists at Nottingham University. It is thought that the movement in the womb shakes up the mother-to-be’s placenta to ensure blood circulates more evenly.
Dr Neele Dellschaft led the research which used MRI scanners to look at the placenta in healthy pregnant women and those at risk of pre-eclampsia.
She said: "We found that in healthy pregnancies the blood flows very slowly.
"The normal patterns of flow and oxygenation were much more variable in pre-eclampsia. We identified a completely new phenomenon which we called the 'uteroplacental pump'. This is a contraction of the placenta and the part of the uterine wall to which it is attached.
"We now want to work out the purpose of these contractions but we think it might be to stop blood stagnating in parts of the placenta." The research team scanned 34 women with healthy pregnancies and 13 with pre-eclampsia.
Professor Penny Gowland, of the university, said: "It’s hugely exciting to have discovered a brand new physical phenomenon." She hoped the discovery, outlined in the journal PLOS Biology, would help doctors "to better diagnose and manage conditions like pre-eclampsia."Daily Mail