You are pregnant. Congratulations! Are you curious about the development of your baby, about Fetal Health and Development, and how to take care of it?
Do not worry. We have got a complete guide for you that will help you in every step of your pregnancy.
A normal pregnancy lasts for nine months and each three-month period of your pregnancy is termed as a trimester.
During this trimester, the fetus grows and develops. Make sure that you see your health care provider a number of times to ensure that your pregnancy is going well.
Your first visit to the doctor is usually before 12 weeks; however, they will schedule appointments during the weeks 16, 24 to 28,32,36,38, and then finally weekly.
Doctors usually think of pregnancy in 3 stages called trimesters. These are:
- First trimester: Conception to week 12
- Second trimester: Weeks 13 to 28
- Third trimester: Weeks 29 to birth.
Fetal health and development are an important part of your pregnancy. To understand fatal development, let us discuss the changes it goes through in each trimester.
During your early visits to the doctor, you may hear them using various terms like embryo, zygote, and fetus. These terms describe the stages of your baby’s Fetal Health and Development.
Here’s more about what the terms mean and what you can expect along the way.
What is a Zygote?
Fertilization is a process that usually happens within a few hours of ovulation. It is a critical point of reproduction as in this process; the sperm meets the newly released egg.
At this point, 23 male chromosomes and 23 female chromosomes mix to create a single-cell embryo called a Zygote.
Embryo and Fetus
A baby to be is not considered a fetus until the 9 weeks after conception or week 11 after your last menstrual period. (LMP)
The embryonic period consists of the development of all important systems of the baby. You can think of it as your baby’s basic foundation and framework.
On the other hand, the fatal period is more about growth and development so that your baby can survive in the world. you can visit our page for Gynecology Services here.
Let us discuss the stages of Fetal growth and development month by month.
The span of this trimester is from the week of conception to 12 weeks. This is generally the first three weeks of your pregnancy.
Your baby will undergo small changes; form a small group of cells to a fetus that is starting to have baby’s features during this stage according to American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Month 1(week 1-4): A water-tight sack forms around the fertilized egg and is called an amniotic sac. It helps cushion the growing embryo.
The placenta also develops during this stage which is a flat organ that transplants nutrients from the mother to the baby and transfers waste from the baby.
Think of the placenta as a food source for your baby.
During this stage, a primitive face will take form with large dark circles for the eyes, and the face will start developing.
Blood cells will take shape and circulation will begin. The tiny heart tube will start beating 65 times a minute by the end of the fourth week.
Your baby is about ¼ inch long by the end of this month which is smaller than a grain of rice.
Month 2(week 5 to 8): The facial features of your baby will continue to develop. Tiny buds eventually grow into arms and legs, fingers, toes, and eyes are formed.
The neural tube i.e. the brain, spinal cord, and other nerve tissue will form. The sensory and digestive tract will form and bones will start replacing cartilage.
The head of your baby is the largest in proportion to the rest of its body at this point. The heartbeat can be detected at about 6 weeks.
Your baby is about 1 inch long and weighs about 1/30 of an ounce.
Month 3(week 9 to 12): The arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, and toes fully develop. External ears form and your baby will start moving a little.
The teeth and gums will form and the reproductive organs of your baby will also form but at this point, it is difficult to distinguish your baby’s gender on ultrasound.
By the end of the third month, your baby is fully formed. Limbs and organs are present and will continue to develop in order to become functional.
The circulatory system and the urinary system of your baby are working.
Your baby is 4 inches long and weighs about 1 ounce by the end of this month.
Congratulations. Your embryo has now become a fetus and it will grow and develop in the following trimesters.
Any morning sickness and discomfort is probably gone by the beginning of this period. Your baby will start to develop facial features.
You may also start to feel the movements of your baby as it flips and turns.
Month 4 (week 13 to 16): The heartbeat of your baby is now audible. Fingers and toes have a defined shape, eyelids, eyebrows, eyelashes, nails, and hair will form.
Teeth and bones will become more dense. The nervous system starts to function; reproductive organs and genitalia are developed and are visible on ultrasound.
Your baby is 6 inches long and weighs about 4 ounces at this stage.
Month 5(week17 to 20): Your baby is developing functions and exercising them during this stage. Hair begins to grow. It covers the face, temple, shoulders, and back and is called lanugo.
The baby’s skin is coved with a coating called vernix caseosa which sheds just before birth.
At this stage, your baby is 10 inches long and weighs ½ to 1 pound.
Month 6(week21 to 24): Your baby’s skin is reddish in color, wrinkled, and veins are visible through the translucent skin of your baby.
In this stage, eyelids begin to part and the eyes open.
Baby responds to sounds and you may notice jerking motions in baby hiccups. If your baby is prematurely born, it may survive after 23 weeks with intensive care.
The baby is 12 inches long and weighs about 2 pounds.
Month 7 (week 25 to 28): Your baby will mature and develop reserves of body fat. The hearing of your baby is fully developed and will respond to stimuli. The fluid around your baby will start to diminish.
Your baby is likely to survive after seven months if born prematurely. It is about 14 inches long and weighs 2 to 4 pounds.
You will be tempted to count the days till your due date but each week before the birth prepares the baby. Your baby will gain weight quickly, adding body fat which will help after the birth, during this period.
Remember that full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. It is possible you can go past your due date by a week or two.
Month 8(week 29 to 32): Your baby will continue to mature and you will notice that it is kicking more. The brain develops rapidly at this time and your baby can see and hear.
At this stage, the lungs are still immature. Your baby is 18 inches long and weighs as much as 5 pounds.
Month 9 (week 33 to 36): The lungs are close to full development and your baby grows and matures.
The reflexes of your baby coordinate and respond to light touch and sound. It is 17 to 19 inches long and weighs 5, 1/2 pounds to 6,1/5 pounds.
Month 10 (weeks27 to 40): During this month, you can go into labor at any time. Your baby will move less due to tight space. The position of the baby changes to prepare for birth.
Ideally, your baby is head down and you will feel uncomfortable in this final stretch as the baby drops down into your pelvis and prepares for birth.
At this point, your baby is 18 to 20 inches long and weighs 7 pounds.
How to Care for your Baby during Fetal Growth and Development?
During Fetal Health and Development, your body will undergo many changes, such as weight gain and frequent urination.
At times you have Ectopic Pregnancy which occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. This most often occurs in a fallopian tube, which carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
There are other changes in your body like hormonal changes, especially mood swings, cravings, etc.
Keep in mind a few things during your pregnancy to avoid any complications during pregnancy.
Eat healthily: take supplements as prescribed by your doctor. Eat a healthy and balanced diet to provide your baby with enough supplements.
Exercise: Consult your doctor for the exercise you can do. Generally, you can do running, bicycling, and swimming. Remember to not over-exercise and exhaust yourself. Drink lots of fluids.
Avoid smoking: Smoking increase the chances of miscarriage and birth defects like fetal alcohol syndrome. Avoid it and talk to your consultant to avoid complications.
Infectious Diseases: You should avoid infectious diseases. Flu can cause problems for you and your baby. Take a flu shot after consulting your doctor.
Stay away from people who have chickenpox, shingles, or other viral illness to protect yourself and your baby from any infection.
Diet and supplements
What you eat and drink during your pregnancy affects your Fetal Health and Development. Moreover, take enough supplements and a healthy diet as your doctor prescribes them.
Add the following foods to your daily routine to help your baby grow and develop. These are:
- Eggs, milk, yogurt
- Broccoli, watercress, and cheese
- Dark leafy green vegetables
Early pregnancy can be difficult on your mind and emotions and it is important to take care of your Fetal Health and Development during this period.
Between 10 to 20 percent of clinically recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage according to a study.
The reason might include:
- Underlying medical conditions
- Chromosomal abnormalities
- Hormone issues
- Lifestyle choices e.g. smoking, poor nutrition
Your baby hits a lot of milestones before your due date. Each stage is important in your overall pregnancy. When you know what Fetal Development is and how important is to take care of yourself during each stage of development, you can take care of your baby.
As your baby continues to grow and develop, take care of yourself and your diet. Keep up with your prenatal appointments and connecting with the life growing inside you.