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Pregnancy–Your Baby’s Growth and Development Within the Womb
Publish Date : 1/10/2006 6:11:17 AM   Source : Larry Denton

Parenting does not start once a child is born. Good parenting starts even before you become pregnant. It begins by caring about what you eat, how much sleep and exercise you get and understanding about the stress and responsibilities that come with parenthood. Understanding your baby’s development during the first trimester (approximately 12 weeks) can give you some appreciation of the gentle care your body should receive during this time.

Knowing how your baby is developing can also help you deal with your body to best nurture the growing life inside you. Understanding the importance of proper nutrition, vitamin supplements (particularly folic acid), early and regular prenatal care and healthy exercise, in addition to knowing the dangers of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, can improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

The most monumental and dramatic development of your baby takes place during the first 12 weeks. This is when the fertilized egg travels down the Fallopian tube to implant in the wall of the uterus. Once that happens, powerful hormones are produced to sustain your pregnancy while your body continues to treat it like a foreign invader. The lack of hormone production at this stage is the cause of some miscarriages.

In the first week after fertilization, the pregnancy usually becomes established and the embryo begins to grow and develop. During the second week, groups of rapidly growing cells prepare to become specific organs and body systems. During week three, the brain and heart begin to develop. Once twelve weeks have passed, the limbs and all the internal organs are fully formed. It is vitally important that you be extremely cautious about diet, drug usage, alcohol consumption and tobacco use during these first 12 weeks, since that is when the most crucial development takes place.

At the beginning of the second trimester, at around sixteen weeks, the fetus is about five inches long and weighs approximately 4 ounces. Its heartbeat is strong and its skin is transparent. The body is totally covered in soft, downy hair called lanugo. By twenty weeks, the fetus is a foot long and weighs about one-half to one pound. The fetus sucks its thumb and sometimes hiccups. During these middle months of pregnancy the expectant mother will probably feel better than she did earlier or that she will later.

Morning sickness (nausea) and fatigue usually lessen or disappear entirely. As the baby’s growth continues, the expectant mother’s uterus expands into the abdominal cavity. Psychological changes in response to their changing appearance occur in most women during this portion of the pregnancy. Some expectant mothers enjoy how they look, while others feel unattractive, inconvenienced and restricted. By the end of the second trimester, around twenty four weeks, the fetus has grown to fourteen inches in length and weighs about one and one-half pounds. The eyes are open and the fetus has a strong grip.

Starting the third trimester, around twenty eight weeks, the fetus is sixteen inches long and weighs from four to five pounds. It is adding body fat during this time. The fetus is becoming quite active and rudimentary breathing movements are present. At thirty two weeks the fetus has grown to be about eighteen inches long and weighs about five pounds. The fetus has periods of sleep and wakefulness and actually responds to sounds. By the end of the third trimester (thirty six to thirty eight weeks), the fetus has grown to six pounds and is about nineteen inches long. The lanugo, the fine, downy hair which covered the body earlier, is mostly gone. The fetus is also gaining immunities from the mother during this phase.

At this stage, the expectant mother’s uterus expands to a level just below her breast bone. Crowded by the enlarging uterus, in addition to high levels of progesterone hormone, the mother may have violent episodes of heart burn and indigestion. She may also experience shortness of breath since the uterus is pressing against her diaphragm and rib cage. Varicose veins in the legs, hemorrhoids, and swollen ankles sometimes appear due to the increased pressure with the abdomen. By the ninth month, the expectant mother often looks forward to the end of the pregnancy. She may become more concerned about labor, birth and the health of her baby. Through childbirth classes, the expectant parents can learn more about labor, birth, and how to cope with the stress of the latter part of pregnancy.

About two weeks before birth, the profile of the expectant mother is likely to change as the fetus descends into the pelvic cavity. The mother may now feel less pressure on her diaphragm, consequently making it easier to breathe and to eat. However, because the head of the fetus can press against her bladder, she many need to urinate more frequently. As the pregnancy reaches its conclusion, the baby’s head presses against the mother’s pelvis and her cervix becomes stronger and thinner. This thinning is a sign of readiness for labor and birth. Awkwardness and fatigue may add to the expectant mother’s desire for the pregnancy to be over. At the same time, she may feel a spurt of energy and feel a “nesting urge” which results from the preparations for the arrival of a new baby.

About the Author

Larry Denton is a retired history teacher having taught 33 years at Hobson High School in Hobson, Montana. He is currently Vice President of Elfin Enterprises an Internet business dedicated to providing information and resources on a variety of topics. For a delivery room full of additional information and quality resources concerning pregnancy visit

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