Coordinating the movements of mother and baby to facilitate delivery

© iStock

© iStock

A team of researchers from EPFL and Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) has been awarded one of two Fondation Leenaards 2019 science prizes for its research into the biomechanics of labor. The aim of the project is to determine the best position for each mother to adopt in order to make vaginal delivery easier. 

During labor, the position of the mother-to-be can play a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth delivery, and it's important to be able to individually identify and model the best position for each woman to adopt. Dr. David Desseauve, an obstetrician at the CHUV's woman-mother-child department, Julien Favre, a biomechanics expert and co-director of the CHUV's Swiss BioMotion Lab, and Jean-Philippe Thiran, a professor at EPFL School of Engineering's Signal Processing Laboratory 5, have pooled their skills to further the research in this area. 

"Getting the position of the pelvis right during a complicated delivery is probably one of the best ways of enhancing uterine contractions and easing the baby's exit" says Dr. Desseauve. Drawing on his experience, he believes that a significant number of C-sections could be avoided if more were known about birth mechanics. "Our research team hopes to be able to determine the optimal position that a mother should adopt to help the baby along the birth canal when a delivery has stalled or is taking too long," he says. 

For this study into obstetrical mechanics, Dr. Desseauve has teamed up with Dr. Favre and Professor Thiran. The Swiss BioMotion Lab will work on developing a new approach to analyzing and modeling the mother's posture and her uterine contractions. "Our hope is that by creating a customized model, we will be able to determine what position will allow the mother’s uterus to function at its maximum potential and help the baby to progress," says Dr. Favre. 

Professor Thiran will bring his expertise in medical imaging and signal processing to bear in monitoring the baby's progress and its position within the mother's body during labor. "We will track the baby's progression with ultrasound images, which will then be analyzed using a technique similar to that employed in facial recognition systems," says Thiran. "The main challenges will be identifying the position of the baby's head and determining how the mother’s position affects the baby's ability to keep moving along the birth canal during labor." 

The prize winners will present their projects at the Rendez-vous scientifique de la Fondation Leenaards 2019, which will be held at 5pm on Thursday, 21 March in the AGORA cancer research building at the CHUV. The event is open to the public, upon registration.

Author: Fondation Leenards / EPFL

Images to download

©Alban Kakulya - Dr Julien Favre, Prof. Jean-Philippe Thiran and Dr David Desseauve
©Alban Kakulya - Dr Julien Favre, Prof. Jean-Philippe Thiran and Dr David Desseauve

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