Pregnancy Month by Month
First, with an occasional exception, there is only one egg cell released by the mother each month, and those cells were developed way back before her own birth! The sperm cells, on the other hand, are constantly produced by the father, who may release 20,000,000 to 500,000,000 at one time – all trying to reach that egg to produce a new life. If an egg cell has been released by the mother, it is estimated that it only takes about one hour for just one of those sperm cells to reach it. The tiny sperm have to actually “swim” up the mother’s ovarian tube, a distance of about seven inches, to reach the ovum (egg). Only a few dozen of the original millions of sperm cells make it, and only one penetrates and fertilizes the ovum.
There you have it – conception. This is zero hour of day one. A brand-new life has been created and immediately starts to grow. Within a few hours the genetic codes of the parents are merged to create a completely new and unique person – unlike anyone else on earth – ever before or ever more!
Within that first week, you move down the ovarian tube and into the womb (uterus) attach and remain for the next nine months. This is called “implantation” or “nesting.” The uterus is lined with spongy tissue rich in blood supply which will be essential for your growth. This is how world-know geneticist, Dr. Albert Lily, the “Father of Fetology,” describes this event:
“The young individual, in command of his environment and destiny, with a tenacious purpose, implants in the spongy lining and, with a display of physiological power, suppresses his mother’s menstrual period. (This is why a missed period is a sign of pregnancy.) This is his home for the next 270 days, and to make it habitable, the embryo (new baby) develops a placenta (nutrition source) and a protective capsule of fluid for himself.”
Cells increase from hundreds to many thousands, all with their own special purpose. Within the next couple of weeks, arms start to emerge, followed two days later by the legs. Concurrently, internal organs are developing and starting to function! Did you know that your heartbeat could be detected just 18 days after conception?
By the end of the first month, you have experienced the greatest size increase and physical change of your entire lifetime. You are now ten thousand times larger than you were at conception, but still tiny – just ¼ to ½ inch long – but it’s you nevertheless.
During this second month, by day 40 your brain waves could be measured. You’re becoming a well-proportioned, small-scale baby. Check out this amazing picture of a still-living baby at just 6 weeks after conception.
Dr. Paul E. Rockwell, Director of Anesthesiology at Leonard Hospital in Troy, New York, stated:
Eleven years ago, while giving an anesthetic for a ruptured tubal pregnancy, I was handed what I believed to be the smallest living human being ever seen. The embryo sac was intact and transparent. Within the sac was a tiny human male swimming extremely vigorously in the amniotic fluid, while attached to the wall by the umbilical cord. This tiny human was perfectly developed, with long tapering fingers, feet and toes. It was almost transparent, as regards the skin, and the delicate arteries and veins were prominent to the ends of the fingers.”
“The baby was extremely alive and swam about the sac approximately one time per second with a natural swimmer’s stroke.”
In the sixth and seventh weeks, nerves and muscles work together for the first time. The lip area is the first to become sensitive to touch; and if the lips are stroked, you will pull away – your first reaction to a stimulus.
By the seventh week, your body has become nicely rounded and padded with muscles. Your internal organs are not only present, but they are also beginning to function. Your stomach produces digestive juices; your liver manufactures blood cells, and your kidneys extract uric acid from your blood. Your body is completely developed into a small-scale baby, just one inch tall!
You also begin your own exercise program as you bend and stretch those new muscles. This movement is considered to be as important as your growth itself, as you prepare for your life after birth.
By this point, if you have been kept safe from harmful chemicals and diseases, you will have a good start in life. During this development stage, the accelerated cell growth can be adversely affected by diseases of the mother which can be given to the baby, causing significant birth defects. Also, the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs can cause birth defects, mental retardation, or even death of the developing baby.
As your ears, hands, and feet are nearing completion, they are also taking on their individuality, shaped according to family patterns. For example, if big ears or large feet “run in the family” and this is a dominant gene, these individualized appearances will occur at this time.
By eight weeks, all your body systems are present, and it’s time to start using the various parts of this new body.
Moving from the second to the third month marks the end of the “embryo” and the beginning of the “fetus.” The word “fetus” is Latin for “young one.” The body is now essentially complete, and the skeleton is beginning to change from cartilage to actual bone cells. Consequently, embryologists chose to identify this as a time for perfecting the functions of the body, following the perfection of the body’s structure.
Your eyelids and palms are now becoming sensitive to touch, and you will make a partial fist on an object placed in the palm of your hand.
In the ninth and tenth weeks, these nerve/muscle connections increase three-fold, and almost your entire body becomes sensitive to touch. You can squint, swallow, and frown in response to stimuli. You can make facial expressions and even smile! You’ve become so coordinated in your movement that you can even turn summersaults – both forward and backward.
All this activity- and your mother didn’t even feel it! That’s because you are still small enough to fit in the palm of your parent’s hand.
By the end of the 12th week, you have reached another milestone. Your movement is now becoming fluid and graceful. Your facial expressions are actually similar to your parents. You also have your own fingerprints, which will remain with you throughout your lifetime.
You are also beginning to breathe. You are not breathing air though. You’re breathing the fluid that surrounds you. You may wonder how this is possible. Wouldn’t you drown? Well, since you are getting your oxygen from your mother through the umbilical cord, breathing the fluid develops your lungs for breathing air when you’re born.
Unfortunately, this is also a difficult time for babies whose mothers smoke, as they are receiving this same smoke-filled air, which decreases their breathing by 20%.
From now on you will continue to rehearse and improve the vital functions of breathing and moving in preparation for birth.
During these four weeks, you increased your weight sixfold and added five inches to your height. You have now reached about half your height at birth. Now your mother knows you’re there. You’re big enough for her to feel your move, and you are forcing the growth of her abdomen to accommodate your ever-increasing size.
Your taste buds are now working, and you show preferences! Sweeteners introduced into the fluid surrounding babies will increase swallowing, and sour substances will result in a decrease.
By the end of the fourth month, your heart is pumping about 25 quarts of blood per day!
You can also hear now. What can you hear?
A tiny microscope was placed next to the head of a baby in the womb, which revealed that he heard everything the scientists heard. They stated:
“We heard almost everything, from people talking 12 feet away, to a door opening in the room, to a cart going down the hall with the door closed. The clarity was incredible. It was easy to tell who was talking.”
This month you grow to about one foot long. You are also growing hair – on your head, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Your mother is feeling your presence too. You are turning and kicking regularly, and even your hiccups can be felt.
You are also beginning to establish a sleep-and-wake pattern and may even dream. Rapid eye movement (REM), indicative of dreaming, has been recorded at just 17 weeks after conception.
Boxing matches have even been seen between twins. As one twin batted his brother, the other batted back. After a few minutes, they both rested and then started another round.
Other experiments during this period have shown that loud music can cause a baby to cover his ears, and a very bright light on his mother’s abdomen can cause him to move his hand to a position shielding his eyes.
You are now about fourteen inches long and have begun to accumulate a little fat under your skin. Your eyelids are now open; and you are vigorously exercising your eyes, moving them back and forth. Your grip is also becoming very strong.
At this stage, many babies with birth defects or other medical problems can be operated upon to correct these things before birth. Babies who previously had very low survival potential are now routinely operated upon during these last few months. This amazing photograph was taken during an operation on a 21-week-old baby who had a spinal problem compressing his brain. Little Samuel Armas is now an adult, but he shook his doctor’s hand well before he was born!
“My name is Michael Clancy and I am the photojournalist who photographed Samuel Armas reaching from his mother’s womb and reacting to the touch of his surgeon at twenty-one weeks in utero during a spina bifida corrective procedure in 1999.”
“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the uterus shake, but no one’s hands were near it. It was shaking from within. Suddenly, an entire arm was thrust out of the opening, then pulled back until just a little hand was showing. The doctor reached over and lifted the hand, which reacted and squeezed the doctor’s finger. As if testing for strength, the doctor shook the tiny fist. Samuel held firm. I took the picture! Wow! It happened so fast that the nurse standing next to me asked, “What happened?” “The child reached out,” I said. “Oh, they do that all the time,” she responded.” Photo by Michael Clancy.
Now you are gaining weight, in preparation for your birth, putting on several pounds. You are practicing sucking your thumb; and if you are lucky enough to have hair on your head, it is growing rapidly.
You are getting cramped in your womb home, and all your movements are easily felt by your mother. Sometimes you even keep her up at night with your kicking!
During these final months, you are also getting important immunities transferred from your mother to protect you from diseases during the first few months after birth.
New research on the baby’s ability to learn while still in the womb is showing amazing results. We now know that as early as eight weeks before birth, the baby prefers his own mother’s voice to anyone else! Mothers are being encouraged to sing lullabies before their babies’ births, which will then soothe them in those first months after birth. Recognition of their mothers’ voices is evidence that they are capable of learning. This has led scientists to believe that the process of learning a language may begin before birth.
So now those two cells that united nine months ago have become two hundred million cells, and they weigh six billion times more than the fertilized egg. There’s no more room for you in the womb, so it’s time to break out.
And guess who determined when you would be born – you did! (Unless the doctor decided to deliver you by C-section.) As Dr. Lily has stated:
And, finally, he determines his own birthday, for unquestionably, the onset of labor is a unilateral decision of the fetus.
And now, just like those first nine months, you continued to change, grow, and learn to become the person you are today. As long as you have nutrition and a safe environment, now you will continue to change, grow, and learn for your entire lifetime – however long that may be.
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Your life began at the very moment you were conceived. “Conception” means the combining of the mother’s egg cell, called the ovum, with the father’s sperm cell. At that moment you were as small as the period at the end of this sentence and only barely visible to the naked eye, but that was your beginning.
As the DNA content of these two cells was combined within those first few hours, your very own traits were determined – the color of your hair, eyes, and skin; the configuration of your face and body; and even aspects of your temperament and intelligence. You were unique – a blend of two different parents which had never existed before.
However, it has only been in the last century that science has advanced enough for us to know all this.
Before then, there were only theories. For example, did you know that when the first sperm was seen under the microscope, some scientists believed that each sperm contained a perfectly formed baby, that we all descended from our fathers, and that mothers were only incubators for these already formed babies? In fact, some observers even claimed to have seen these complete babies inside the sperm! Those who believed in this were called “homunculists.”
There was also an opposing group of scientists called “ovists,” who believed that all mothers contained these perfectly formed babies within their ovum (egg cells). In fact, they believed that one mother would contain her daughter, her granddaughter, her great-granddaughter, etc.
Of course, these theories seem funny to us now that we have such an exact science on our beginnings. As science progressed, we continued to learn more amazing things about our time before birth – how we could hear, learn, taste, and feel!
After conception, the only thing you needed from that point was nourishment – to grow into the baby who emerged at the end of nine months and the person you now are.