We’re routinely told to handle our newborns’ heads with care, because their skulls are still soft, and fusing together. The reason behind the malleability is of course birth—entering the world head-first is no mean feat. And here are some incredible images to prove it.
During vaginal delivery, a baby’s head must be pliable enough to exit the birth canal without damage. In a recent study, seven women delivered their babies inside an MRI machine, showing “exactly how parts of the infants’ skulls overlap so the heads can be delivered vaginally. During this process, the brain is also compressed.”
The images are fascinating:
The doctors leading the study were also blown away by what they saw—
“When we showed the foetal head changing shape, we discovered that we had underestimated a lot of the brain compression during birth,” said Dr. Olivier Ami, who lead the research.
This incredible transformation is known as “foetal head moulding,” and is usually unnoticed postbirth—because things shift back into place pretty quickly.
Five of the seven newborns part of the MRI machine research regained their head shape soon after birth. Sometimes, it can take a bit longer—and a rare handful of babies skulls do not comply with compression; something the study authors hope to help doctors predict in order to prevent birth complications (but know that this abnormality only happens in a tiny percentage of infants).
Most baby’s skulls will compress without a hitch—so you can breathe easy (and in awe!) of the amazing ways nature gets things done.