Scottish scientists have discovered that a mother's heart beats in sync with that of her unborn baby. Their research could speed up the diagnosis of health problems in the womb.
Scientists at the University of Aberdeen, along with colleagues in Germany, discovered that under certain conditions the heartbeats of a mother and foetus can beat at the exact same rate.
This could lead to doctors using a new technique to detect development problems in the baby during pregnancy.
A special machine, called a magnetocardiograph, helps study the heartbeats of the women and their babies.
The machine is widely available, although it's not often used as a part of antenatal care, only when there appears to be a medical issue during the pregnancy.
Cutting-edge computing technology revealed synchronisation occurred only when the mother breathed rhythmically. The volunteers were asked to breath in time with a computer-generated clock.
The study suggests that if the synchronisation between mother and baby doesn't occur, it could signal that something might be wrong with the development of the baby. This could then allow earlier action to be taken.
Dr Mamen Romano who was involved with the research commented: "We used advanced computing techniques in our research - making minor alterations to the rhythm of a computer-simulated heartbeat - to reveal the connection between rhythmical breathing and heartbeat synchronisation."
Another researcher involved with the study, Dr Marco Thiel, said: "Pregnant mothers often report an awareness of a bond with their child, but until now there has been no hard evidence to suggest this bond is reflected in the interaction of their heartbeats.
Our findings reveal that synchronisation between the heartbeat of a mother and foetus does actually occur - but only when the mother is breathing in a rhythmical fashion."