WiE Webinar: The Biomechanics of Human Birth

Dr. Megan Leftwich discusses a bioengineering framework for human labor and delivery

WiE Webinar: The Biomechanics of Human Birth

WiE is proud to present Dr. Megan Leftwich in this episode of our SEAS Faculty Discussion Series.

Giving birth is a common, everyday occurrence and yet, from a bioengineering framework, not much is known about fundamental forces during labor and delivery.

Due to the significant challenges of studying birth in vivo, and because of limited previous analysis, there is a great benefit to building synthetic, simplified models for experiments.

Beginning with the birth canal, we simplify the fetus to a rigid rod and the birth canal to a highly flexible membrane contained in a fluid bath. The next model looks at the uterus as an elastic, fluid-filled sphere and the fetus as a solid ovate. The third model simplifies the cervix to a silicone cylinder with changing mechanical and geometric properties.

With these robust models, we can simulate a variety of labor and delivery scenarios to understand fundamental mechanics and to discover relationships between geometry, birthing fluid properties, and delivery forces. By understanding the biomechanics of late stage labor and delivery, it may be possible to recognize when these mechanics fail, preventing vaginal delivery or causing preterm birth.

 

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About Dr. Megan Leftwich

Professor Megan Leftwich's Biologically Inspired Energy Laboratory investigates natural fluid dynamics phenomena and applies their findings to engineering problems. Current projects include the wake dynamics of vertical axis wind turbines is standard and complex configurations, the hydrodynamics of pinniped swimming (in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoo), and the fluid dynamics of human birth. Dr. Leftwich has a PhD from Princeton University, 2010.