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Keywords:

  • human;
  • fetus;
  • infant;
  • leg movement;
  • male;
  • female;
  • gender;
  • antenatal;
  • postnatal;
  • birth;
  • third trimester;
  • neurobehavioral development

Abstract

Longitudinal quantification of leg movements per minute for human subjects during both fetal and neonatal periods was accomplished from videotapings conducted antenatally (ultrasonography 30, 34, and 37 weeks gestational age) and postnatally (birth and 6 weeks of age). Fetal/neonatal subjects displayed decreasing numbers of leg movements per minute during antenatal development (30 to 37 weeks), followed by increasing numbers of leg movements per minute during postnatal development (birth to 6 weeks of age). Male subjects displayed greater numbers of leg movements per minute than female subjects during both antenatal and postnatal development. Fetal-to-neonatal continuity for numbers of leg movements per minute was found for comparisons between fetal (37 weeks gestational age) and neonatal (during sleep states at birth) measures, and females displayed a stronger and different movement continuity pattern than males. These results indicate a differential time course for neurobehavioral development of male and female fetuses/neonates, and the findings have implications for the clinical assessment of fetal neurobehavioral development and well-being. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Dev Psychobiol 38: 252–273, 2001