Prenatal development is the term given to the process of gestation that an embryo undergoes, right from the fertilization stage to childbirth. The time frame is divided into clear categories in order to simplify the study of a child's growth and health, and to ascertain that everything is normal and there are no potential dangers. It is also known as antenatal development or embryology.
A child takes about 9 months or 40 weeks to reach the stage of birth, and in this time period, a lot of changes and processes occur to the child's body and the mother's body as well. The development stages outline the growth of the child and give a clearer picture of the development of the child in the womb. The stages can be divided into 3 parts, and each part carries its own significance and importance in the development of a fetus.
Prenatal Stages of Development
The 3 stages of prenatal development are the conception stage, the embryonic development stage and the fetal development stage. Let's see now what each of these stages signify in the context of a child in the womb.
The conception stage occurs in the first 2 weeks of pregnancy. What it implies is that the body is preparing itself for pregnancy and is taking the necessary steps in order to enhance the process. A week by week study shows that in these first 2 weeks the body grows a thick layer of blood perfused tissue in the womb. The process of conception takes about 2 weeks, and after that the egg reaches the uterus where it starts growing. Thus, the conception stage is sort of a preparatory and preliminary process that readies and prepares the body for the impending pregnancy.
Once the egg has reached the uterus, the embryonic stage begins. This continues till about the 11th week of pregnancy, and is the most important time. The foundational development of the embryo begins in this stage, and as such, due care and precautions must be taken.
By around the 4th week, the cellular division is in full flow, and the divisions are made between the cells that will make up the baby, and the cells that will make up the placenta. By the 6th week of pregnancy, the baby develops a heartbeat and arms and legs, so this is a very important stage. The process continues and by the 8th week the teeth and the intestines begin to form as well.
By the time the embryonic stage ends at the 11th week, the child has started the development of all major organs, the central nervous system, various joints in the body, and the irises in the eyes. The process that governs the development of embryo until this time is called embryogenesis.
From the 11th week onwards, the child is called a fetus, and this stage (called fetal period) is the last along the timeline, and it ultimately culminates in the birth of the child. Till about the 16th week the fetus develops hair, nails, vocal cords, genitals, hardened bones, and a functioning liver and kidneys. By about the 20th week fat starts accumulating under the skin, the heart starts pumping more amounts of blood each day, and the baby also starts experiencing hiccups.
Development then slows down a bit, and by the 24th week, the child has formed eyelids and eyebrows, and it weighs about 0.6 kilograms (1.3 pounds). The development then continues and slowly the lungs start developing, and by the 28th week the lungs start preparing for birth and the breathing of air. The ligaments start forming, the nostrils start opening, and the brain development in fetus also starts happening at a fast rate. Amazingly, the child can completely open its eyes now as the retinas have also been formed.
Till the 40th week, the main task is the formation of the lungs, as most other body parts and organs are already ready. The child starts developing necessary immunities, and also starts fattening up to face the outer environment. By about the 39th week, the child will be ready to be born into this world.
Any complications arising during prenatal development must be looked into and taken care of with urgency. Each stage can be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis, and pretty soon all the complications can be discarded, and a new human being will be ready to step out.