Ontogeny of fetal movements in the guinea pig

C.M. van Kan, J.I. de Vries, A.B. Luchinger, E.J. Mulder, M.A. Taverne

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Assessment of fetal motility is an approach to evaluate the development and function of the nervous system before birth. Reference values for the time of first occurrence and the incidence of normal fetal movements are indispensable for studies in which prenatal motor activity is applied as a model to study the central and peripheral nervous systems. Studies on fetal motility have been performed in a few species, particularly in the human. The aim of the present study is to describe the ontogeny of fetal motility in the guinea pig, a precocious polytocous species. After a pilot study to establish procedures for repeated ultasonographic scanning of guinea pigs, 10 domesticated animals were scanned (5.0 or 7.5 MHz convex transducer) at 2-4 day intervals between day 24 and 63 of gestation (term age 68 days). Per animal two selected fetuses were each scanned for 15 min. Images were stored on videotape and analyzed off-line for the first onset, presence and quality of fetal movement patterns, and quantity of sideway bendings, general movements, breathing movements and periods of fetal rest. Twenty-five different movement patterns could be characterized, 6 emerging at the onset of motor activity were performed only temporarily. The very first fetal movement was observed on day 24 gestational age, and subsequently most other movements developed during a period of only 5 days. Interfetal difference in onset of the frequently occurring sideway bendings, general movements, and front and hind limb movements was only 2 days. Sideway bendings and general movements co-existed during days 29 to 43. There were developmental trends in the course of pregnancy. Sideway bendings increased rapidly between 24 and 30 days and declined hereafter. General movements and fetal breathing increased during midpregnancy and declined towards parturition. Conversely, fetal rest was observed for approximately 60% of time at midgestation and a marked increase was found towards parturition. There were no significant differences in developmental trend of the various movement patterns between individual fetuses. Fetal motility in the guinea pig followed a specific temporal pattern, like in the human, but at a different time scale. The present quantitative data will enable functional investigations into the role of the neuromuscular system. They may also facilitate studies on the effect of environmental influences, such as stress, drugs, toxic substances, and food conditions, on fetal neurobehavioural development in this species. Crown Copyright © 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-344
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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