A New Venture
The Future of Birth
Even though all 7.8 billion of us on Earth are born, we know actually very little about the process of pregnancy. As GW scientists Megan Leftwich and Alexa Baumer were investigating pregnancy’s biomechanics, a third—Michael Gallagher—called on them to help him investigate a high-risk pregnancy issue. The result? An unprecedented, interdisciplinary research endeavor that just might midwife a future that saves billions in healthcare costs and countless lives.
Approximate # of babies born each year worldwide (roughly 4 million in the U.S. alone)
Approximate # of vaginal deliveries that fail in the developed world (in some countries it’s closer to half)
“We’re really good at getting babies into this world. We’re not so good at understanding how that works. I hear people, ‘You know, it’s such a natural process, it just works.’ It doesn’t just work. People die doing this.”
-Dr. Megan Leftwich
Cost per each percentage point of surgical deliveries
Time in pregnancy in which cervical insufficiency can cause pregnancy loss
Dr. Baumer began working in Dr. Leftwich's lab during her undergraduate years at GW and decided to pursue a doctoral degree researching questions related to the biomechanics of childbirth. She finished her PhD in Mechanical Engineering from GW in 2021.
Dr. Gallagher is a high-risk obstetrician and associate clinical professor at GW. He is actively involved in teaching George Washington University Obstetrics and Gynecology residents at Holy Cross Hospital. Dr. Gallagher also has an active interest in medical ethics.
Dr. Leftwich investigates natural fluid dynamics phenomena at GW and applies their findings to engineering problems. In addition to the fluid dynamics of human birth, Leftwich’s current projects include the wake dynamics of vertical axis wind turbines and the hydrodynamics of pinniped swimming (in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Zoo).
“It’s surprising in some ways how understudied labor and delivery is. As more women become engineers and scientists, I think that there will be a lot of developments.”
— Dr. Alexa Baumer
“It dawned on me one day, ‘Gee, we have a whole university here, and I bet there’s some people.’ The question I’m asking is really a physics question.”
-Dr. Michael Gallagher