Dr. Nadja Reissland, a researcher at Durham University in England, has studied thousands of 4D ultrasound images, and the results are fascinating. According to the UK’s The Mirror, Reissland found that contrasting images of preborn babies of smoking mothers with those of nonsmokers demonstrated the way preborn babies respond to cigarettes. Namely, in addition to the already known effects of smoking (premature birth, respiratory issues, and an increase in crib death), the preborn children of smokers move more and touch themselves more than those of smokers. The contrasted images can be found here.
The pilot study, Ultrasound observations of subtle movements: a pilot study comparing fetuses of smoking and non-smoking mothers, was published in the journal Acta Paediatrica and can be read here. Reissland hopes to expand the research in the future to derive a wider range of samples.
Although the study demonstrates even more negative effects of smoking during pregnancy than are already documented, Reissland is careful to ensure that her research is not construed as condemnation of smoking mothers. Rather, she hopes that by providing a visual, real-time example of the effect smoking has on a preborn child, mothers will be swayed to relinquish the habit.
Of additional interest to Reissland is the potential her ultrasound research has to aid paternal bonding. Reissland, cognizant of the many mothers who find themselves parenting alone, hopes that by using 4D images she can show fathers what their children look like, and how their facial features are similar. Reissland says that 4D ultrasounds can even demonstrate behavioral similarities between fathers and their children. This visual aid, she believes, will help fathers to bond with their children while they are still in utero, strengthening the paternal commitment to remain in the family unit.