Your Baby’s Development Month by
Editor’s note. This appears on the webpage of Wisconsin Right to
Life. We very much appreciate their permission to reprint.
There is a wonderful video that shows life in the womb and the
step-by-step process of fetal development. You can share this video
with your group or in your classroom by ordering the DVD (http://www.nrlc.org/InfinitePossibilities.html).
An Amazing Journey! LIFE!
At the miraculous moment of fertilization – when the egg of a woman
and the sperm of a man unite, a new human life begins. From this
moment on, it will take approximately nine months for the baby to
develop and be ready to be born.
Babies come into this world one of three ways – early (premature),
on time (born at the expected time), or late (after the expected due
date). All babies, regardless of when they arrive, must go through
the same developmental stages – usually a nine-month cycle. Let’s
examine what happens before birth.
For the sake of clarity, please note that fertilization is placed at
the beginning of Week 1. If you had intercourse multiple times since
the end of your last menstrual period, it may be difficult to
determine exactly the date of the baby’s conception and stage of
Fertilization – the joining of the father’s sperm and the mother’s
egg – this is when life begins. Fertilization can occur within
minutes of intercourse or within two to three days afterwards. When
fertilization occurs a new, unique human individual begins the
journey of development. At the earliest stage, the new person is
referred to as a zygote and is no larger than a single grain of
sand. Cell division begins mere moments after fertilization.
Amazing Fact: At fertilization, every bit of genetic information
necessary for the child’s development is present. The “program” for
everything is there: hair and eye color, skin tone, height – even
likely giftedness as a pianist, vocalist or computer programmer.
A function called implantation happens from five to nine days after
fertilization. Implantation occurs when the new human nestles him or
herself in the wall of the uterus (or womb) and begins to draw
nutrition. Once he/she has implanted, your baby is called a
blastocyst and is about 0.1 – 0.2 mm in diameter.
This week your body will experience a hormone reaction to the
presence of the developing baby. The result is that you stop
menstruating. In other words, you miss your normal period.
Between weeks three and four (18 to 25 days after fertilization) the
developing baby’s heart begins to beat. Arm and leg buds form. The
face – eyes, ears, nose and mouth – begin to take form.
Your baby has only been developing for five weeks and is now 10,000
times larger than he/she was at fertilization. Your baby now is only
about one inch long and weighs no more than one whole peanut. The
lining of the placenta begins to develop but does not take over the
production of hormones until about week 12. Brain waves are
Amazing Fact: It’s a good thing this blazingly fast growth rate
slows down after the second month, otherwise the baby’s birth weight
would exceed 10 tons!
Your baby’s heart is bulging from the body and blood circulation is
well established. Early evidence of the liver, pancreas, lungs and
stomach can be seen. When you see your baby through ultrasound at
week six, you’d be amazed by how much he or she has already
Genitals are present but you can’t distinguish boys from girls at
this point. The pumping action of your baby’s heart is about 20% of
your own heart’s capacity.
Amazing Fact: Your baby will actually go through three sets of
kidneys during his or her development. By week seven, your baby is
already on the second set!
By this time, the end of month two, your baby receives a new
technical name to describe his/her development: fetus, a Latin word
which means “young one.” All organs are present – and most are
functioning – although some need more time to develop. The irises of
the eyes develop, fingernails are visible and your baby can curl
his/her fingers around an object. He or she also hiccups, has taste
buds on the tongue and tooth buds in the gums.
Amazing Fact: If your health provider uses a “Doppler,” you may be
able to hear your baby’s heartbeat during your week 10 visit. It
will sound very fast. Your risk of miscarriage is greatly reduced
after you hear this sound.
The baby’s mother and father can also see their baby in the womb
through 3D/4D ultrasound imaging. Most doctors use ultrasound to
trace the baby’s development throughout pregnancy.
Your baby can smile, make funny faces. She/he can practice
“breathing” the amniotic fluid in/out of the lungs, all 20 teeth are
formed and waiting to develop. Your baby is now approximately one
ounce in weight, as is the placenta. The pancreas has now started to
secrete insulin. This is also the time of peak movement for the
baby. The movement can not be felt by the mother but the baby rarely
pauses for more than five minutes at a time. He/she may change
position as often as 20 times an hour even if the mother lies still.
The baby also feels the mother’s motions at this time and rocks in
the womb as the mother moves.
Amazing Fact: Amniotic fluid completely regenerates itself every
three hours. While we know for sure that this fluid is partly made
up of urine from the baby, science still has not discovered what
makes up the other parts. As advanced as modern medicine is, some
Amazing Fact: What was that noise? At 15 weeks, loud sounds may
actually cause baby to startle. Some moms and dads find that quiet
music played near mom’s tummy will cause baby to relax and calm
Your baby is now about eight inches tall from head to toe. Baby’s
movements can now be felt by his/her mother and he/she can suck
his/her thumb. The fingernails are now well-formed and often need to
be trimmed at birth because they have grown so long. Baby is
emptying his/her bladder every 40-45 minutes. The placenta is fully
established by now. Another critical part of the baby’s growth is
the umbilical cord. The umbilical cord is attached to the placenta,
not the mother, and serves to provide baby with the needed nutrients
for the rapid growth the baby is now experiencing. Fingerprints are
Amazing Fact: “Why can’t I sleep through the night?” Many moms find
themselves asking this question. The simple answer is you have a son
or daughter inside you who lives on a different sleep/wake cycle
than you do. Some kids consistently wake mom at 3 a.m. every
morning. Chances are, after baby is born, he or she will want to be
active about this same time!
Baby’s weight will increase to approximately 15 ounces by the end of
the fifth month. Hearing is very acute and activity continues to
increase as the baby swims around in the amniotic fluid. The baby’s
body shifts to a head-down position in preparation for birth in a
few months. Eyebrows have developed. Lanugo, (fine hair) begins to
appear on the baby’s body. Sometimes this lanugo remains on the body
after birth. Also, a creamy white substance (named vernix) clings to
the baby’s fine hair and in creases of the skin. It is believed that
this “skin cream” protects the baby during the remaining weeks of
pregnancy. This substance is sometimes seen after birth.
By now your baby has gained another pound. His/her hand coordination
has increased and the baby can now move the thumb in opposition to
the fingers. Eyes are now open though the baby is still in the
darkness in the womb. Little deposits of fat, which retain heat,
begin to form. The uterus allows some light to be seen so the baby
begins to distinguish between lightness and darkness.
Baby’s skin is wrinkled from so much time floating in water. The
skin will stay this way until a few weeks after your child’s birth.
Your baby’s eyelashes are developing and fat continues to be
deposited beneath the skin. If you have a baby boy, his testes will
probably begin descending. Now into his/her seventh month of
development, a baby born at this time has a good chance of survival
with the help of medical technology. Your baby also is beginning to
regulate his/her body temperature. The baby’s temperature will
always be warmer than the mother’s.
If you are having Braxton Hicks Contractions, they are a sign that
your body is getting ready for labor. The baby notices the
contractions, but is not adversely affected by them.
Your baby now weighs two to four pounds.
What are Braxton Hicks contractions?
Named for J. Braxton Hicks, who first made note of them in 1872,
Braxton Hicks contractions are an occasional (and unpredictable)
tightening of the uterus during the first and second trimesters of a
pregnancy. Usually these contractions are not painful and do not
indicate that labor has begun. Third trimester Braxton Hicks
contractions may increase in frequency and may cause the mother some
degree of pain. These contractions may even occur with a regular
rhythm (10 to 20 minutes apart) and are sometimes called false labor
pains. The only way to be absolutely certain that the contractions
are indeed false labor pains is for mom to be examined by her
Baby’s irises can now dilate and contract in response to light;
weight is now about four to six pounds. Sleep and waking become more
differentiated toward the end of the eighth month. Four distinctive
behavioral states become recognizable and these will continue to be
characteristic in the baby’s behavior in the weeks beyond birth.
These are sleep, awake, actively awake and crying. Your baby’s body
is now producing a chemical (called a surfactant) which helps baby
breathe after birth. The surfactant is coating the alveoli in the
lungs. Baby weighs about four pounds (1.8 kilograms). Babies born
after this week have fewer breathing problems at birth.
Amazing Fact: Baby has put on about two pounds of weight, mostly fat
and muscle tissue, since last month. Measurements to 40 cms or 15.8
Baby weighs about five to seven pounds, and puts on about half a
pound a week now. All organ systems are completing development for
birth. Baby gains his/her “fat cheeks” during the ninth month.
Mother’s antibodies pass through the placenta to provide baby with
immunity from measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and other
Amazing Fact: In the days and hours prior to your baby’s birth the
amniotic fluid is continually replaced, even in labor, at the rate
of once every three hours.
Chances are good that your baby is one of the 90% who is head down
and deeply snuggled into your pelvis. The immune system is still
immature and the baby receives antibodies from the placenta and
after birth will receive antibodies continually from mother’s breast
milk. Most of the lanugo has fallen off the baby’s body, although
you may still find some hidden in spots, particularly in the
creases, and around the shoulders or ears.
The average baby will be about 7.5 pounds (3.4 kilograms) and 20
inches long at birth. The placenta will weigh about one eighth the
size of the baby and the umbilical cord will be about the same
length as the baby. The baby will be judged, at birth and five
minutes later, with an Apgar score.
What is an Apgar score?
Virginia Apgar, M.D., gets the credit for developing the APGAR score
in 1953. She wanted to provide moms, dads and hospital staff with a
uniform method of measuring the initial health of a newborn. The
test looks at five different signs of health: heart rate,
respiratory rate, reflex irritability, muscle tone and color.
Happy birthday, baby!