24-week old fetus yawning
Though the exact purpose of yawning is a mystery, 4-D ultrasound images reveal that fetuses yawn in utero
27-week old fetus
Yawns can be distinguished from feeding reflexes because yawning mouths spend longer open and have a shorter closing period.
28-week old fetus
As babies mature, they yawn less frequently. Researchers believe yawning may help trigger brain development.
32-week old fetus
Because yawning frequency changes throughout pregnancy, yawn patterns could be used as a marker of healthy development.
Yawning in utero
By the time babies are full-term, they have stopped yawning in the womb.
Researchers used ultrasound images of fetuses' faces, like these, to track how they used progressively more complex facial movements.
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Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Wired.com and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.