Multiaxial mechanical behavior of human fetal membranes and its relationship to microstructure

Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2013 Aug;12(4):747-62. doi: 10.1007/s10237-012-0438-z. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


This study was directed to the measurement of the mechanical response of fetal membranes to physiologically relevant loading conditions. Characteristic mechanical parameters were determined and their relation to the microstructural constituents collagen and elastin as well as to the pyridinium cross-link concentrations analyzed. 51 samples from twelve fetal membranes were tested on a custom-built inflation device, which allows mechanical characterization within a multiaxial state of stress. Methods of nonlinear continuum mechanics were used to extract representative mechanical parameters. Established biochemical assays were applied for the determination of the collagen and elastin content. Collagen cross-link concentrations were determined by high-performance liquid chromatography measurements. The results indicate a distinct correlation between the mechanical parameters of high stretch stiffness and membrane tension at rupture and the biochemical data of collagen content and pyridinoline as well as deoxypyridinoline concentrations. No correlation was observed between the mechanical parameters and the elastin content. Moreover, the low stretch stiffness is, with a value of 105 ± 31 × 10(-3) N/ mm much higher for a biaxial state of stress compared to a uniaxial stress configuration. Determination of constitutive model equations leads to better predictive capabilities for a reduced polynomial hyperelastic model with only terms related to the second invariant, I 2, of the right Cauchy-Green deformation tensor. Relevant insights were obtained on the mechanical behavior of fetal membranes. Collagen and its cross-linking were shown to determine membrane's stiffness and strength for multiaxial stress states. Their nonlinear deformation behavior characterizes the fetal membranes as I 2 material.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Elastin / metabolism
  • Extraembryonic Membranes / pathology*
  • Extraembryonic Membranes / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture / pathology
  • Fetal Membranes, Premature Rupture / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Pregnancy
  • Pressure
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Collagen
  • Elastin