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Pregnancy and fetal development

Debora V
Senior Editor, TipsHire

There can be no happier moment than when you find out that you become a parent. Even if you feel like you are the happiest human being on Earth, you can suddenly find yourself overwhelmed with worries. How not to be worried when you think all changes that will occur in your life and the huge responsibility of parenthood? Any concerns you have will disappear when you keep your baby in your arms for the first time. However, it helps to understand better what happens during pregnancy and how does your baby develop.

The truth is that the pregnancy will be the most beautiful nine months of your life. The more you’ll be ready to face all challenges that could appear, the easier it will be to handle the stress during pregnancy and birth, as well as in the first months of your baby’s life.


Conception starts when the sperm penetrates the egg and takes about 24 hours. After the egg is penetrated, its surface changes, which stops the penetration of other sperm. When fertilization ends, the genetic make-up process is complete. Even from this early stage the pregnancy it is established whether the baby will be a boy or girl. When the sperm has Y chromosome, the baby will be a boy, but if it has an X chromosome, it will be a girl.

Within 24 hours of fertilization, the egg begins to divide fast into many cells while it travels slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus. After 3 to 4 weeks from the first day of your last period the pregnancy tests can detect high levels of hCG, known as pregnancy hormone. This appears in the blood from implantation time.

If you are planning to have a baby, the period from the conception until the pregnancy can be detected it will definitely be one of the longest. Now it starts a memorable journey with your child, a journey that it is impossible to forget.

First trimester

With each passing day, you are closer to the moment when your little baby comes into the world. When the fertilization process is done, your baby is an embryo formed of two layers of cells from which will develop the entire body with all its organs. Since the implantation there is all the genetic information necessary for child development. When you are three weeks pregnant your baby is a very small ball, called blastocyst. During next week, it begins the embryotic period and for the next 6 weeks all your baby’s organs begin to develop. Also, between three and four weeks your baby’s heart starts beating. By this time, arms and legs form, but the eyes, ears, nose and mouth begin to take form as well.

In the beginning of the second month of your pregnancy your baby is 10,000 times larger than he or she was at the fertilization. Now arms, hands, fingers, feet and toes are fully formed, the eyes are completely developed. From the 10 weeks of the pregnancy heart rate can be heard with an instrument called Doppler. Also, the bones and muscles begin to grow, as well as the intestines. It is true that there are six months to birth, but by this time your baby starts to smile and make funny faces.

Second trimester

The second trimester begins with the 14th week of the pregnancy and ends with the 27th week of the pregnancy. In the four month, your baby continues to grow and measures eight inches. Now the mother can feel the baby movements and the placenta is completely developed. At this point in your baby’s development his/her arms can flex, the neck and the external organs are formed and outer ear begins to develop. Also, the fetus can swallow and hear and because the kidney is functioning, it can produce urine. At the end of the fourth month, fingerprints of the baby are evident. With this month, you can know the sex of your baby by taking an ultrasound exam.

In the fifth month of pregnancy, your baby will weigh around 15 ounces. Your baby’s hearing is improving, but also his/her movements, while the baby swims in the amniotic fluid. In this period, the baby develops the sucking reflex, so if the hands floats to the mouth, chances are the fetus starts sucking his or hers thumb. It appears the fine hair called lanugo. An interesting fact about this period of the pregnancy is related to the baby program of awaking and sleeping, which gets a regular basis.

Just because the baby sleeps and wakes regularly, it will be impossible for the mother to sleep for the night. Starting with the sixths month, the brain is quickly developing and real hair begins to grow, the eyes start to open and the lungs are completely formed, even though they are not functioning yet. Because the uterus allows to baby to see some light, he or she can distinguish between lightness and darkness even from this period.

The late four week of the second pregnancy trimester are not without symptoms. In the 26th week of the pregnancy, your baby measure about 35cm long and by this time you may experience cramps, headaches, indigestion, swollen feet and you may even start forgetting things, such as where you put your phone or your keys. All these symptoms are normal and there is nothing to worry.

At the end of the second trimester it is easier to hear your baby heartbeat, either by using a stethoscope or if someone put his or her ear to your bump.

Third trimester

In the 28th week of the pregnancy your baby weights about 1kg and is able to respond to sounds. By this time, Braxton Hicks contractions start and make you feel uncomfortable and even scare you, but they are false contractions. They are occasional uterus tightening that occur in the first and the third trimesters of a pregnancy. As long as they are not accompanied by intermittent back pain, passage of the mucus plug, increased vaginal discharge or bleeding, you have nothing to worry about. In the beginning of the third trimester your baby ‘s major development is completed and the fetus gains weight fast.

Starting with the 29th week of the pregnancy, the baby is very sensitive to light and sound. By the end of the eighth month, the different regions of the brain forms and because taste buds form, it can taste sweet andunderline sour. Now the baby begins to produce a chemical called a surfactant that helps the baby breath after birth. Starting with 33-36 weeks the baby stays in a head-down position being prepared for birth. In the penultimate month of pregnancy, the skin is not as wrinkled as it was in the previous months and the lungs are prepared to work properly outside the uterus.

In the ninth month, the baby weighs about five to seven pounds. The antibodies from the mother passes from placenta the fetus, to provide the immunity necessary for preventing chicken pox, measles, whooping cough and other health problems. When you reach the 38th week, the pregnancy is considered full-term. If you are in your 40th week of the pregnancy and haven’t delivered yet, your baby may be lazy. Some doctors give two more weeks past the due time and until the end 42 weeks, most doctors induce delivery.

Sings of labour

Whether you are giving birth for the first time or you are on your second or third pregnancy, for some of you may be difficult to recognize the signs of labour. Many of the early signs of labour can be easily misinterpreted. There can be no more evident sign of labor than when the water breaks. Though many women are afraid that the water breaks in a bad time, this rarely happens without experiencing contractions first. After your water breaks, it can take up to 12 hours until you go into labour.

Contractions are the most obvious sign of labour, but sometimes it is easy to be fooled by practice contractions that appear in the last few weeks of the pregnancy. If the contractions disappear and are irregular, it means they aren’t true labor contractions. When true contractions appear, they won’t go away until the delivery. Furthermore, they become more intense and more frequent over time.

The mucus discharge is another important sign that the labour is close. This has the role to protect the baby from infection. Between dispelling the mucus and the beginning of the labour may be hours, days or even weeks. In the first hours of the labor you may experience diarrhea, because the body starts to release prostaglandins, which are a group of hormones that determine the contraction of the uterus and cervix dilatation. Prostaglandins can cause diarrhea because they overstimulate the bowels.

Many pregnant women experience back pain for months during their pregnancy, but there is a stronger pain that appears as a labor sign. This happens to one third of women.

Methods of childbirth

Vaginal delivery is the most common and the safest one. Sometimes the use of instruments is necessary, such as forceps or vacuum. These instruments guide the baby through the birth canal. When vaginal delivery isn’t possible, is necessary a C-section (Caesarean delivery). This is an option when the baby is in distress, is too large to pass through the pelvis or is not in the head-down position.

There are three stages of labour and the first begins when your contractions make your cervix dilate. To pass easily through the first stage of labour it helps to make breath exercises, massage or even if you take a warm bath or shower. These will make you feel more relaxed and reduce the pain. If the contractions are regular and appear from 3 to 10 minutes or your waters breaks, it is better to call the midwife.

It takes around 6 to 12 hours from the beginning of the labour to when you will be fully dilated, because the cervix needs to be open about 10 cm. When the labour is to slow, which happens when the contractions are not appearing often enough or the baby isn’t situated in an appropriate position, the doctor may suggest two ways to speed it up – by breaking the water of by using an oxytocin drip. The lost one makes your contractions stronger and more regular.

The second stage of the labour begins when your cervix is fully dilated and lasts until you give birth to your baby. Now your midwife will help you find a comfortable position to give birth, whether you sit, lie on your side or stand. This is the most difficult stage of the labour and if you are having your first baby, the pushing phase should last no longer than three hours. For women who had babies before, it should last no more than two hours. Most of the effort will end when your baby is born. If everything works fine, you will be able to hold your baby and enjoy skin-to-skin moments together. Also, you can start breastfeeding your baby.

The third stage of the labour starts after you give birth, when the womb contracts and you eliminate the placenta. This could happen naturally or with treatment.

Depending on how easy or difficult your delivery was, you need some time to recover and soon after that you can go home with your baby. Just as each pregnancy is different, each delivery is different, too. Therefore, if some women may have a hard time bringing their babies into the world, for other is easier. It is important to take good care of yourself and of your baby, to eat healthy, have plenty of rest and go to the doctor for periodic check-ups. If your pregnancy allows it, it is good to be as active as possible and exercise regularly. Of course, without putting your pregnancy at risk and only with the recommendation of a specialist. With proper support and guidance, your period of pregnancy and childbirth can be both pleasant and comfortable.

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Pregnancy and fetal development
There can be no happier moment than when you find out that you become a parent. Even if you feel like you are the happiest human being on Earth, you can suddenly find yourself overwhelmed with worries. How not to be worried when you think all changes that will occur in your life and the huge responsibility of parenthood? Any concerns you have will disappear when you keep your baby in your arms for the first time. However, it helps to understand better what happens during pregnancy and how does your baby develop.
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