Call it an amazing act of creation or call it a natural evolution, whatever it is the transformation of a small mass of cells into throbbing, kicking life continues to awe and amaze humankind. When fertilization happens, conception takes place, though the exact moment of conception is a mystery. In the flurry of excitement, most women fail to remember the last ovulation date and hence the mystery of the exact time of conception remains a mystery.
Well, for calculation purposes you can safely take the beginning of your last period as the first week of your pregnancy. That’s the time your doctor or midwife would calculate from, to work out the approximate due date. It is amazing how one of the eggs released from your ovary after approximately a week after your period makes its momentous journey down the fallopian tube to meet a sperm out of the 200 to 600 million or so, that swims and wades its way through to the fallopian tube. The less viscous mucus in your cervix aids the sperm through its journey past the vagina and womb, right through the fallopian tube. And, Hey Presto! Sperm meets Egg and conception just happens!
The First Month
During the first month of pregnancy the fertilized egg begins to grow and your baby is still an embryo. The embryo is well-protected and lies ensconced in a water-tight, fluid-filled bag that forms around it. Known as the amniotic sac, this bag nurtures the growing embryo. This is the stage when the placenta also develops. The placenta is a rounded organ that helps transfer the nutrition from the mother to the growing baby, and also helps transfer out the waste from the baby.
This is the stage when a shadow of a face takes form, with just two tiny dark circles forming in the place of the eyes. The facial features like the mouth, lower jaw and throat also begin to take shape. Blood cells start forming, triggering the vital feature of circulation. A tiny tube that will later grow into the heart also develops, and this tiny tube is capable of beating 60 to 65 times per minute before the end of the fourth week. All this, incredulously, fits into a quarter-inch long structure that is just about the size of a grain of rice!
Whether the baby takes after the mother or father is not important, what’s important is that its facial features are developing during this stage. Both the ears develop as tiny folds of skin, barely sticking out on either side of the still forming head. The extremities (hands and legs) are still minute buds that will grow into full length arms and legs. This is the stage when fingers, toes and tiny eyes begin to form.
The beginnings of the spinal cord appear in the form of a neural tube that later develops into the complex central nervous system. There’s some growth activity in the stomach area as well, where the digestive tract and other sensory organs start forming. Slowly, all the cartilage gets replaced with bone. At this stage, the head and body are not in proportion, with the head being a tad larger. Even now, your ‘baby’ is still just an inch long and weighs just 0.03333 ounce. During the sixth week, the fetal heartbeat can be detected, though quite faint. When the embryo is 8 weeks old it is no longer called an embryo, it is now a fetus.
This is the time you should place your order for a baby heart monitor because it can detect the steady beating of your baby’s heart, and you know he or she is doing just fine. You may have imagined it, or you could just have felt some tiny movement within because the third month is also when the arms, legs, fingers and toes develop fully. Your baby can now clench his or her fists and open and close their mouth. Tiny teeth start jutting out, and although the reproductive organs start developing, the gender cannot be determined at this stage, even with the most advanced ultrasound device.
Towards the end of the third month, the baby is fully developed. The circulatory system is functional, as is the urinary system. The liver starts doing its duty of producing bile. At this stage, your baby weighs just an ounce and is about 4 inches long. Your doctor is likely to heave a sigh of relief as the chances of miscarriage at this stage are quite rare.
This is the period where other body extremities develop rapidly. Your baby starts getting a distinct personality. The fingers and toes take shape with nails starting to grow. The eyes get eyebrows, eyelashes and there is a hint of hair growth on the head. The teeth and bones are firmer and if your baby is in the mood he or she may put her finger in the mouth and suck, or just give a lazy yawn and stretch. Your baby just might make faces at whomever, the baby only knows best. Your baby may have grown to 6 inches in length and the weight could be anywhere around 4 ounces.
You should definitely feel your baby moving at this stage and if he or she doesn’t it’s not anything to worry about. Your baby is now developing muscles and likes to flex them a bit. The hair growth is denser now. Lanugo or fine, downy hair forms on the shoulders, back and temples. This hair is meant to protect your tender baby and will automatically fall off in the first week after birth. The skin also has a protective covering known as vernix caseosa. This covering disappears just a week before your baby is born. At the end of the fifth month your baby has grown 10 inches long and now weighs between 0.5 and 1 pound.
At this stage your baby’s skin starts turning red in color and the veins are clearly visible through the wrinkled skin. Your baby’s unique identity, the finger prints, starts forming now, as also the toe prints. Your baby may open his or her eyes and take a peek at the darkness around. Your baby can now react to sounds, and any loud noise can increase the pulse a bit. If you experience any jerks, it’s probably the hiccups your baby is getting. Towards the end of the sixth month your baby is likely to be a foot long and could weigh around 2 pounds.
Your baby is still growing and layers of fat start forming under the skin. Your baby’s sense of sound is a lot keener now and there can be a lot of movement during the seventh month of pregnancy. This is the time when your baby is a lot more active and can react to sound by moving. At the end of the seventh month your baby could have grown a couple of inches more and would weigh anywhere between 2 and 4 pounds.
The body fat develops further as your baby matures steadily. Your baby’s movement also increases and you may feel him or her kicking more frequently at this stage. The brain develops at a rapid pace at this stage and your baby can see and hear very well. Almost all the internal organs are fully developed, though the lungs would not have developed completely. Your baby could be a foot and a half long and can weigh close to 5 pounds.
With your baby growing steadily, the lungs are fully developed during the ninth month. Your baby has perfect reflexes, and if you could only see, you’ll notice him or her blinking the eyes and closing them occasionally. Your baby is likely to have a firmer grip now and can turn his or her head and even respond to touch. Your baby is certainly ready to come forth into this world. The womb is suddenly too small for your little one, and there can be a lot of squirming as it is a tight fit indeed. Now is when your baby changes position and emerges head first into this world. Right into your eagerly waiting arms.