The present observations represent an attempt to determine whether the human fetus shows spontaneous respiratory movements within the uterus or whether, as is generally believed, fetal apnea persists throughout prenatal life until interrupted at birth by the first breath.
In recent experiments with rabbits, cats and guinea-pigs, we1 found that, instead of a state of prolonged apnea before birth, the fetal respiratory system shows long periods of automatic activity. When one now turns to the human fetus, the question is whether or not man is like the other species studied or stands apart.
Observations of the fetal movements transmitted through the abdominal wall were made in a series of women near term. With the woman in a recumbent position on her back, careful inspection of the abdomen was carried out. Apart from the general body movements of the fetus there could be recognized unmistakably spontaneous fetal movements, which continued
SNYDER FF, ROSENFELD M. INTRA-UTERINE RESPIRATORY MOVEMENTS OF THE HUMAN FETUS. JAMA. 1937;108(23):1946–1948. doi:10.1001/jama.1937.02780230006002
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