Computer programmers from the University of East Anglia announced they are working to create the world’s first 3D virtual birth simulator in hopes of helping obstetricians and midwives prepare for difficult deliveries. They hope someday to use 3D graphics to simulate the complex sequence of events that transpire as the baby descends through the birth canal.

Users of the simulator would be able to enter in anatomical information, such as the size and shape of the mother’s pelvis and the position of the fetus, to create different scenarios and possible outcomes for both mother and baby. The program can also take in physiologic factors, such as the amount of force produced by the mother while bearing down. Programmers are working to model a midwife’s hands that can interact with the baby’s head.

Dr. Rudy Lapeer from UEA’s school of Computing Sciences presented his team’s project at the International Conference on E-Health and Bioengineering in Romania in November of 2013. The researchers hope the simulator could someday have real-life applications, giving doctors and midwives the ability to predict delivery complications and outcomes on a case-by-case basis. For example, an obstetrician could use the software to determine if a baby’s shoulders are likely to become stuck during delivery. If the computer model predicts a complicated delivery, a future obstetrician might decide to schedule the patient for cesarean section (c-section).

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend a woman plan for a vaginal birth unless her physician sees a medical need for a cesarean section. C-sections involve risks such as placental problems, uterine rupture, and bladder and bowel injuries during the procedure but they are sometimes medically necessary for the health of the mother or baby. Planned cesareans are preferred over emergency procedures, and state-of-the-art technology helps physicians decide between vaginal delivery and c-sections much sooner.

Modern technologies, such as ultrasounds and amniocentesis, predict many types of complications during pregnancy and reduce the risk for problems during delivery but there are currently no 3D computer models capable of predicting delivery outcomes based on the anatomical landscape physiology of the mother and baby. Preventing unexpected complications like a stuck shoulder during delivery, a serious condition known as shoulder dystocia, improves delivery outcomes.



  1. "UEA researchers pioneer first patient-specific 3D virtual birth simulator." University of East Anglia (UEA). 22 Nov 2013. Web. 5 Dec 2013.
  2.  "Vaginal Delivery Recommended Over Maternal-Request Cesarean." American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 21 Mar 2013. Web. 5 Dec 2013.