Although we already reported on the first live birth inside an MRI at the end of 2010, the paper describing the full process in more detail has only now been published in European Radiology. As you can imagine, this involved a lot more than just putting a woman in labor inside the scanner and catching her newborn baby.
One major hurdle was constructing an MR-compatible cardiotocography system to ensure the wellbeing of the baby during delivery. Some metal parts had to be stripped from the system to be replaced by nonferromagnetic counterparts and custom software was employed to filter MRI-noise from the signal.
The MRI procedure itself also had to be prepared to make sure all was ready to optimally capture the childbirth process. Five pregnant volunteers were scanned to determine the optimal positioning, to test the CTG and to determine the optimal MRI sequences to use.
For the delivery, the pregnant woman was kept in a supine position in the open MRI system. The second stage of labor (the fetal expulsion) was imaged in near real-time, with one image being acquired in the midsaggital plane every 1600ms. Immediately after childbirth, the maternal anatomy was imaged before and after expulsion of the placenta. The image above shows some of the snapshots taken by the researchers (unfortunately the full set of images is nowhere to be found).