Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Occurs During Fetal Development

By Danni Torelle

Fetal development begins shortly after conception. During a nine month period, the fetus gradually grows until it reaches the point when it can live outside of the uterus. The different developmental periods of the fetus are classified as first trimester, second trimester, and third trimester.

The first trimester encompasses the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Pregnancy starts once the sperm fertilizes the egg. As a result of fertilization, a zygote is created. The zygote contains the same number of chromosomes from the male and female. The zygote has a total of 46 chromosomes. Chromosomes contain the genetic material that will determine the features of the baby, such as sex, height, hair and eye color, hair texture, etc...

The cells of the zygote split up and continually divide. The zygote transforms into an embryo. The placenta is an organ that is connected to the uterine wall and attaches to the embryo. The placenta is the source of nutrients that are fed to the embryo.

The circulatory and nervous systems develop in the fourth and fifth week of pregnancy. Different parts of the fetus, such as the brain, heart, spinal cord, kidney, lungs and other organs start to grow. The woman is no longer able to menstruate due to chemicals being released in her body during the pregnancy.

Hair and facial features start to grow during the sixth to eighth week. The essential organs also continue to develop. The eyes, ears, arms and legs become visible. By the end of the eighth week, the embryo grows into a fetus. Genitals, the neck, and toes develop. At the end of twelve weeks, the fetus is about three inches long.

The second trimester lasts during the thirteenth through twentieth week. The woman can start feeling the fetus move around in the uterus during this time period. The fetus gets fingerprints. The hearing abilities develop. The overall size of the fetus gets bigger and takes up more space in the uterus. By the second trimester, the woman usually becomes visibly pregnant.

The fetus puts on a lot of weight and becomes stronger in the third trimester. During this stage of the pregnancy, the woman may feel increasing levels of discomfort as the fetus continues to move around in the uterus. Issues such as a weak bladder and backaches are reported by some pregnant women. Within the third trimester, the fetus is often viable and has the ability to live outside of the woman's body. Towards the end of the pregnancy, the unborn child will head towards the birth canal. The woman will start to feel contractions as the body prepares for childbirth.

Receiving prenatal care is very important. Sometimes the pregnancy may trigger serious health conditions that can jeopardize the well-being of the woman and fetus. Regularly consulting with a doctor will increase the chances of any medical issues being spotted and addressed early on. A doctor can also advise of ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and nutrition.

Fetal development is not exactly the same for each person. Receiving medical care from a physician on a regular basis will increase the possibility of having a healthy and safe pregnancy. A medical doctor will also be able to address any questions or concerns that a woman has regarding her pregnancy.

About the Author: