A Chronology of Life in the Womb [Fetal Development]

Mother holding her babies ultrasound

Human Life Alliance

Day 1
The sperm joins with the ovum to form one cell. This one cell contains the complex genetic makeup for every detail of a new human life – the child’s sex, hair and eye color, height, skin tone, etc. From that moment on nothing new is added but oxygen, nutrition and time.1

Month One

The first cell divides in two and cell division continues as the newly formed individual travels down the Fallopian tube to the uterus. Over 500 cells are present when this tiny embryo (the blastocyst*) reaches the uterus 7 to 10 days after fertilization.2 Foundations of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system are already established, and on day 21 the heart begins to beat in a regular fashion with a blood type often different from her mother’s.3 Muscles are forming, and arms, legs, eyes, and ears have begun to show.

*The blastocyst is the stage at which many researchers want to destroy the embryo in order to harvest stem cells which are the building blocks of life.

Month Two

By 6 weeks brain waves can be detected by electroencephalogram and the brain is controlling 40 sets of muscles as well as the organs.4 The jaw forms, including teeth and test buds.5 The baby begins to swallow amniotic fluid, and some have been observed hiccupping.6 During this time, the stomach produces digestive juices, and the kidneys begin to function.7 Fingers and toes are developing, and at 7 weeks the chest and abdomen are fully formed.8 Swimming with a natural swimmer’s stroke in the amniotic fluid, she now looks like a miniature human infant.9,10

Month Three

Unique fingerprints are evident and never change.11 The baby now sleeps, awakens, and exercises her muscles by turning her head, curling her toes, and opening and closing her mouth. Even though mom cannot feel the movement yet, baby is very active. She breathes amniotic fluid to help develop her respiratory system. The sex can be visually determined and family resemblances may appear to well!12 By the end of the month all the organs and systems of her body are functioning.13

Month Four

By the end of this month, the baby is 8-10 inches in length and weighs about 1/2 pound. Her ears are functioning and she hears her mother’s heartbeat, as well as external noises like music. Mother begins to feel baby’s movement, a slight flutter at first that will become stronger.14 Life-saving surgery has also been performed on babies at this age.

Month Five

If a sound is especially loud, the baby may jump in reaction to it. Thumb-sucking has been observed during the fifth month.15 Babies born prematurely at this state of development often survive, thanks to advances in neonatal medicine. Case in point: baby Kenya King, born in Florida at 19 weeks, (4-1/2 months) weighed 18oz and survived.16

Month Six

Oil and sweat glands are functioning. The baby’s delicate skin is protected in the amniotic sac by a special ointment called vernix. She grows rapidly in size and strength while her lungs become more developed.17

Month Seven

The baby can now recognize her mother’s voice. She exercises by stretching and kicking as she grows even bigger. She uses the four senses of hearing, touch, taste and she even looks around with open eyes at her watery home.18 If the baby is a boy, his testicles descend from the abdomen into the scrotum.19

Month Eight

The skin begins to thicken, with a layer of fat stored underneath for insulation and nourishment. The baby swallows a gallon of amniotic fluid per day and often hiccups.20 Though movement is limited, due to cramped quarters, her kicks are stronger and mom may be able to feel an elbow or heel against her abdomen.21

Month Nine

Gaining 1/2 pound per week, the baby is getting ready for birth. The bones in her head are soft and flexible to more easily mold for the journey down the birth canal.22 Of the 45 generations of cell divisions before adulthood, 41 have already taken place. Only four more come before adolescence. In terms of development, we spend 90% of our lives in the womb.23

1 “The Drama of Fetal Development,” American Baby (January 1989), p. 45

2 Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 3rd ed, Harper Resources, 2003

3 Moore and Persaud, The Developing Human, p. 310

4 Hannibal Hamlin, M.D. “Life or Death by EEG” Jour. of the AMA (Oct. 12, 1964), p. 113

5 T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 7th ed. (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1995, p. 341)

6 J.I.P. deVries, et al, ‘The Emergence of Fetal Behavior,’ Early Human Development, Vol. 12, 1985, p. 108

7 Gordon Debra, MD, “Pregnancy,” The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2nd ed., pp. 2694-2695

8 Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 3rd ed., Harper Resource, 2003, p. 268

9 Valman & Pearson, “What the Fetus Feels,” British Medical Journal, p. 234

10 Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 3rd ed., Harper Resources, 2003, p. 269

11 Moore and Persaud, The Developing Human, p. 428

12 Flanagan, Beginning Life, pp. 59-65

13 Cunningham, MacDonald & Grant, Williams Obstetrics, 18th ed., p. 90 & 103

14 Flanagan, Beginning Life, p. 68

15 Health & Wellness Resource Center, “Normal Growth of a Baby During Pregnancy,” Clinical Reference Systems Annual 2001, p. 1391

16 Kolata, Gina, “Survival of the Fetus: A Barrier is Reached,” New York Times (March 18, 1989), p. C1; Browne, Mona Z., “19 Week Early Preemie Wins Life Struggle,” Miami Herald (October 4, 1985), p. 1A

17 Gordon Debra, M.D. “Pregnancy,” The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2nd ed., pp. 2694-1695

18 Ibid

19 Health & Wellness Resource Center, “Normal Growth of a Baby During Pregnancy,” Clinical Reference Systems Annual 2001, p. 1391

20 Ibid

21 Ibid

22 Ibid

23 Interview with Sir A. William Liley, www.vanderbilt.edu/SFL/-lejeune_testimony.htm


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