Understanding Week-to-Week Fetal Development

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting things a woman can experience, and for first-time mothers, it is difficult to know what to expect. Although you might receive advice from other women like your mom, friends, and colleagues at work, or get information from the internet, it is overwhelmingly confusing to know who is right, especially when everybody gives you a different opinion. Specialists at Suncoast Women’s Care, including Dr. Wanda Torres, will ensure that you have a healthy and anxiety-free pregnancy by providing the proper prenatal care and support.

To better understand prenatal care, it is crucial to learn about how a normal pregnancy progresses:

How your baby develops

The first day of your last menstrual period is your first day of pregnancy. On average, women are pregnant for about 40 weeks. In the early weeks, your unborn baby is called an embryo. After about eight weeks, the embryo becomes a fetus.

  • Week 1-3

During this time, an ovum (female egg) is released from the ovary. The ovum then travels through the fallopian tube. If a woman has unprotected sex, a male sperm will fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg will divide as it travels down the fallopian tube.

  • Week 3

Once the embryo reaches the uterus, it attaches itself to the uterine walls through implantation.

  • Weeks 4-5

The outer cells of the embryo branch out like roots until they reach your blood vessels. The embryo’s inner cells form two layers that become three distinct layers: one will develop into the brain, nervous system, lungs, and gut, and the third will create the heart, muscles, blood, and bones.

  • Weeks 6-7

As your baby grows, a bulge will form where the heart is, and a bump will develop to create a brain. An ultrasound will detect a heartbeat at this stage of pregnancy because the heart will have begun beating. The embryo is usually about 10mm long during the seventh week.

  • Weeks 8-9

The face is beginning to form, and the eyes become obvious. Major internal organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and gut continue to develop. By the ninth week, the fetus is about 22 mm long.

  • Weeks 10-14

By about 12 weeks, formation is complete. The fetus should have all organs, muscles, bones, and sex organs. The only thing remaining is growth and maturity. The fetus should begin moving around, although you will not yet be able to feel them. From head to bottom, the fetus is usually 86mm long at week 14.

  • Weeks 15-22

Fetal growth is rapid, and the face becomes more defined. Thin, soft hairs called lanugo would cover the fetus by week 22. Most women will begin to feel fetal movements at this time.

  • Weeks 23-30

Fetal movement is vigorous, and your baby may respond to touch, light and sound. The fetus will also swallow small amounts of amniotic fluids and pass it back out as urine. Heartbeat is audible through a stethoscope. Although babies born at week 24 survive, they are at higher risks of disability. The fetus is at 33mm in length at week 30.

  • Weeks 31-40

The fetus continues to grow, and at 32 weeks, the head begins to point downwards in preparation for birth.

After understanding how your baby should be growing throughout the pregnancy, the next step is to understand the proper care for you. Book a prenatal appointment at Suncoast Women’s Care to receive comprehensive and personalized care during your pregnancy.

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