A lucky pair of scissors

One of the luckier babies of 2012 was little Maddalena Douse of Lewes, East Sussex, England, who was born last summer at the Royal Sussex Hospital in Brighton.Baby scissors

Maddalena was born at 23 weeks, and weighed only 382 grams, or about 13 1/2 ounces. According to a story in The Sun, a baby weighing less than a pound would not have been considered viable, and the hospital would not have been likely to use extraordinary measures to keep her alive.

However, at her first weigh-in, Maddalena wound up on the scale with a pair of scissors that went unnoticed. Their weight brought her up to that lucky pound. Only when she was already on a ventilator to help her breathe did the hospital staff discover the difference the scissors had made in her weight.

The little girl went home just before Christmas and "is expected to grow into a healthy child," according to the article.

“We never thought we’d ever bring Maddalena home,” said Kate Douse, Maddalena's mother, according to The Sun. “She now weighs 5½ [pounds] and is getting stronger by the day. She’s our little miracle and we’re so glad to have her home in time for Christmas.”

Maddalena had a twin, Isabella, who did not survive.

Birth in an MRI

Babies are born in all kinds of settings, but a 24-year-old woman in Berlin chose to have her third child in December of 2010 inside a magnetic resonance imaging device at the Charite University Hospital in the German capital.

Researchers at the hospital last month released a brief segment of the seven sequences of real-time images they made of the birth inside a specially constructed open MRI, shown in the photo below. The video accompanied the publication of their article about the event in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

A midwife, an obstetrician, a neonatologist and an anesthetist were in the magnet room while the MRI was on. The hospital's delivery unit was a short distance away on the same floor. Mom and baby left the hospital two days after participating in this historic birth.

The view of the baby's journey into the world from inside the birth canal will provide researchers with valuable insight into the mechanics of this amazing passage, the authors said.

Birth in an MRI

The mother was just shy of 38 weeks gestation, fully dilated and experiencing regular contractions. She received an epidural before entering the MRI, where she remained for less than an hour, according to the article.

One additional "study" was taken of the mother's body after birth, "to evaluate the third stage of labor with regard to placental separation and uterus involution," the authors wrote.

The researchers, all affiliated with Charite, were concerned about subjecting a brand-new baby to the loud noise of the machine without the "maternal soft tissue" padding, so they turned the MRI off just at birth.

Images Christian Bamberg / American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Predicting problems in labor

How great would it be to be able to tell in advance whether a particular birth would go smoothly or need intervention!

A French team of physicians reported this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America that it has developed a new computer model that uses magnetic resonance imaging to predict whether a birth will go smoothly or have problems.Pregnant Graffiti

Olivier Ami MD told a session of the RSNA meeting in Chicago that his team applied the new software, called Predibirth, to 24 MR images of pregnant women, and created a three-dimensional model of the woman's pelvis and the fetus. Using these images, Predibirth calculated the likelihood that the babies could find their way out of their mothers' bodies without assistance.

Of the 24 women studied, 13 delivered normally. Predibirth had predicted normal births for all of these women. Predibirth had tagged three women who opted for elective Cesarean sections as being at risk for dystocia.

Of five women who had emergency C-sections, Predibirth had predicted three might have problems — all three involved instructed labor. However, Predibirth had given thumbs up to two of the mothers, whose problems involved heart arrhythmia.

Predibirth had declared "mildly favorable" three additional moms who wound up resorting to vacuum extraction during birth.

Not perfect, but not bad.

"With this virtual childbirth software, the majority of C-sections could be planned rather than emergency, and difficult instrumental extractions might disappear in the near future," Dr. Ami told his audience in Chicago.

Dr. Ami M.D. is an obstetrician in the radiology department at Antoine Béclère Hospital, Université Paris Sud, France.

Image by Petteri Sulonen

Bella Swan’s birth story

The birth in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part I was not as scary as I thought it would be. (If you don't want to read about the film's ending, stop reading here.) Breaking Dawn is a preteen fantasy through and through, so the birth of Bella's half-human, half-vampire baby winds up looking fairly tidy and vaguely menstrual, even if it does involve blades and teeth. (No trial of labor for Bella.)

Bella Swan

Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan

Will Breaking Dawn leave a generation of young girls with tocophobia — fear of childbirth? My guess is that it will not. The birth happens fast, for one thing, and it's all pretty implausible. The baby appears to be a normal baby, though about six months old, and functions for the rest of the movie in a doll-like capacity.

But Bella Swan — the teenager who falls in love with the vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and marries him in this, the first half of the screen adaptation of the fourth and final book in Stephenie Meyers' Twilight saga — does die in childbirth in the film. Her death has been prophesied, so it isn't unexpected, but the sight of her still, gray form on the table where her baby was born is upsetting.

However, the second half of Breaking Dawn is scheduled for release one year from now, so let's just say that birth transforms Bella. We haven't seen the last of her.

Breaking Dawn is rated PG-13.

A fish / birth story

It is officially the silly season, the last days of summer, when news traditionally slows down to a trickle and publications fill their pages with stories so fluffy they practically float.

Koi

Koi

My candidate for this year's silly-season birth story is "Koi-Assisted Birth," a winsome website about a couple, "Jane" and "Shane," who are planning a water birth in the fall. The two have decided to enlist their 15 koi to help them and their midwife usher their new baby into the world.

The website has generated some controversy. My guess is that Jane is pulling our leg.

She says that "koi are excellent birthing partners," their skills honed by giving birth to thousands, or even tens of thousands, of baby fish, with help from koi dads.

"That's exactly the kind of birthing energy I want!" Jane writes.

But Shane will have a net at the ready to catch the baby, just in case.

Image courtesty of Wikimedia Commons