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By Lieut. Col W. E. Wilson-Johnston

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Extra info for An Account of the Operations of the 18th (Indian) Division in Mesopotamia. December, 1917, to December, 1918

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Displacement of the lenses indicates slow or rapid eye movements (Prechtl and Nijhuis 1983). It is important to bear in mind, however, that it is extremely difficult – and sometimes impossible – to assess eye movements while the fetus is performing general movements or head rotations. The first report on sonographically scanned fetal eye movements is by Bots and associates (1981). 13). According to Birnholz, type I eye movements can only be observed between 16 and 25 weeks’ gestation, although in preterm infants they are present until 33 weeks (Bridgeman 1983).

Sucking and swallowing increase as pregnancy progresses (Roodenburg et al 1991). By 34 weeks, most healthy fetuses can suck and swallow well enough to sustain nutritional needs via the oral route, if born at this early age (Arvedson and Brodsky 1993, da Costa et al 2008, Delaney and Arvedson 2008). During the final weeks of fetal life, sucking increases, as does the amount of amniotic fluid swallowed: starting from 2–7ml per day, the fetus swallows 450–500ml per day by the end of pregnancy (Bosma 1986).

Complementary to the preparatory hypothesis, the functional hypothesis suggests that fetal behaviour is functional and adaptive during the prenatal period (Oppenheim 1981a). Amniote embryos (reptiles, birds, mammals) develop in environments that are totally different from the external world of their postnatal life, which indicates that anatomical and behavioural features could be functional during prenatal development to promote the survival and well-being of the embryo and fetus. Today, there is increasing evidence that embryonic and fetal movements are necessary for the proper development of the skeletal, muscular and neural systems, or vice versa, that normal fetal development requires adequate fetal activity (see also Chapter 8, p 173).

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