The amazing journey of pregnancy

No doubt motherhood has been a long, retentive journey, indeed a marathon for mothers. Parenting starts from the day one as the woman transforms into a mother when she gets pregnant and confirmed of her conception of a baby from the eighth week of pregnancy developing an embryo. The author explores various stages of amazing journey of pregnancy that has been portrayed in this write-up.

It may be termed as "biological" that a woman gets pregnant, but I would say, motherhood that transforms woman into mother is the best engulfing the biological phenomenon as a whole. I would like to recall hearing my baby's cry for the first time after a painstaking and laborious effort giving birth to a baby boy. I was entirely head over heels in full of love with him, tiny a bundle with soft piece of towel, me got exhausted of my energy, still on top of the world that I had been responsible for a new little addition. The miracle that comes with experiencing maiden parenthood is something beyond what I could perhaps imagine. Throughout the duration of those 280 days of gestation, it is an amazing journey of pregnancy heading up to birth of newborn equally gleeful and a course of time requiring love, patience, and sapience. While undergoing pregnancy, to be frank, none has ever been prepared fully to be pregnant, but from the moment the woman insights the wonderful sense of feather-touch with the cute little one there starts real protective mode of parenting.

Fertilization in human

In general, conception takes place within 24 hours of ovulation, i.e., about 14 days prior to commencement of next menstruation period. With the convergence of the egg and the sperm in the outer third part of the fallopian tube moving down in the course of the next seven to ten days from the fallopian tube to the uterus. Once the fertilized egg gets implanted into the flossy, nutrient-rich layer of the uterus the process being called implantation some changes in the cells develop signaling the occurrence of fertilization, holding ovulation and arresting bleeding. At this time, this has been called as blastocyst with the event of implantation measuring around 0.1-0.2 mm. After four weeks, the chorionic villi have been developed with the yolk sac supporting the pregnancy to sustain till the placenta forms. This stage is known as embryonic stage. Instantly upon the occurrence of fertilization, gender of the baby will be set as a girl or a boy. It is in fact up to the sperm to decide the gender of the little one men taking credit of this. Sperms that are heterogametic holds either X (girl) chromosome or Y (boy) chromosome inseminating with female gametes or egg are homogametic consisting of X chromosome alone. In case, sperm with X chromosome inseminates with an egg then female would be the zygotic outcome. On the other hand, if male gametes hold Y chromosome the consequent zygote would be male.

Pregnancy, a mystifying marathon has been normally estimated by weeks that last for 40 weeks or 280 days from conception in general (though it may be 266 days/9 months/38 weeks from fertility time up until birth, obstetrically it has been rather considered to start with the first day of the woman's last menstrual period (LMP) prior to fertilization being around 280 days). Each week/month of gestation brings in unique transitions in the growth and development of the baby inside the womb. Throughout the entire amazing journey of pregnancy the mother can enjoy completely in terms of viewing ultrasound images and sense of feelings expressing the baby's growth changes at every stage of pregnancy.

Three trimesters of pregnancy

The pregnancy calendar, so called gestational period has been designed into three trimesters or stages of pregnancy that has been a normal physical process in general with certain exception of abnormalities sometimes. First trimester consists of initial 14 weeks, the second goes through the next 13 weeks and the last trimester finishes with the proceeding 13 weeks with the addition of a new member into the family. Following part of this write-up details three trimesters and week by week development of the baby.

First trimester

First four weeks

This is the stage in which after ovulation female egg has been ready to be fertilized with the male sperm, the magic of conception happens, gender is determined with the development of the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, hair, and skin), marvelous foundation for intellection, senses, feeling, etc., and early stages of circulatory system including heart and blood vessels that has been life supporting throughout the life of the baby.

Fifth week

Heartbeats start. By screening ultrasound it can be viewed on the screen like a rhythmic sound echoed in mother's heart alone. Development of umbilical cord. This is being the lifeline of the baby while in the uterus that has been responsible for oxygen pumping for life support, clearing waste and providing essential nutrients for the entire gestational period. Blood begins pumping with the functioning of four heart chambers ensuring baby's life long sustenance. Along with brain and other organs, lungs appear to form as well. Appearance of arm and leg buds though not much but develop to give a shape at least simply like a baby girl dances or intelligent boy plays, what you could probably imagine.

Sixth week

The baby's limbs continue to grow to be stretched out to a greater extent that could be felt closer to mother's bladder afterwards. Brain begins to be well-grown and it is amazing that brain of the baby will grow over 100 billion neurons in the remaining months of pregnancy and this has been just the get-go. Eye lenses seem to be formed. With the formation of the nostrils and nose appropriately positioned, nerves from the nose to the brain also appear. Intestines that are placed within the umbilical cord outside the baby's structure in the early stages begin to develop. The baby is to have pancreas secreting digestive enzymes of insulin and glucagons that the baby requires for functioning.

Seventh week

With the formation of elbows, the little one fascinates the mother by bending and flexing similar to the Karate movie hero. Fingers begin to appear as if these are the baby's first toys. Then feet with small notches of toes seem to be viewed measuring a length less than a half inch. Appearance of eyes, ears and nose look like an alien. Intestines begin to make a formation in the umbilical cord that was done earlier outside of the baby's body. Teeth start to grow under the gums.

Eighth week

Formation of cartilage and bones starts out and the tongue develops. The basic structure of the eye has been set in. Now intestines get into the abdomen out of the umbilical cord. Baby's body grows to make more room for the baby to move inside by leaps and bounds. Webbed-like short fingers and toes do appear. Baby measures a length of 1.6 cm (crown to rump) with a weight of 1 gm at this stage after completing one fifth of its journey till his/her birthday.

Ninth week

Baby has commenced its movement. Though too little to feel, the little one has already been twisting, lurching, and dancing making the mother to have a feel as she wishes. Baby practices flexing and bending with most of the joints formed at the end of this week. Fingerprints have been seen in the skin. Fetus has been able to curve its fingers to catch something in the palm of its hand. While having an ultrasound this could be observed that the infant can place the fingers mostly on other fingers, toes, ears and nose. It seems like the infant gets fascinated to get these into its palm. The average size of the baby would be 2.3 cm of length and 2 gm of weight.

Tenth week

Baby is termed as fetus medically with almost development of the most essential parts of the infant completed. While the baby's head has been about half of its length the eyelids shut, irises start to develop and eye color has been determined too at this point. Placenta that provides nutrients and removes waste to have the baby grown stronger has started its functioning. The baby will be around 3.1 cm long and 4 gm of weighing at the end of the tenth week.

Eleventh week

Almost all organs have been in shape and started to function. Fingers and toes get separated from webbed shape, hair and nails grow, the genitals taking appropriate features of male or female. Since kidneys start to functioning amniotic fluid containing water primarily gets accumulated that supports the baby float with cushion-like structure within the mother's womb. The intestinal wall muscles initiate contractions that help in digestion of food. The weight of the baby will be about 7 gm with 4.1 cm of length.

Twelfth week

Vocal cords begin to appear with the eyes moving closer together and ears to normal position at the sides of the head. Intestines position farther into the baby's body, pancreas producing insulin, and glucagons, and liver heads up to function that has been responsible for blood cleansing, nutrients storage, and provision of required chemicals. At the end of this period, baby grows to a length of 5.4 cm and weight of 14 gm.

Thirteenth week

The infant begins to have inhaling and exhaling movements. Eyes and ears remain to develop. Neck of the infant becomes long and the chin has been resting no more on the chest as it previously has. Hands have become much more functional and make the baby to be in a comfort zone moving hands with fist. At this point baby's heartbeat has been faster than the mother's and could be confirmed by Doppler screening. Placenta being the source of nourishment for the baby, weight and length would be around 23 gm and 7.4 cm respectively.

Fourteenth week

At the maturation of the baby's thyroid gland it has started producing essential hormones needed for its life as a whole. The child's skin becomes more transparent, bones are stronger and harder further, prostate gland develops if it is a boy and ovaries transition to pelvis from abdomen in gal babies. Very fine hair known as lanugo protecting the body of the child in the womb continues to grow up until the period of 26 weeks of gestation and this hair will fall prior to birth of the child. At the end of the first trimester, length of the baby would be around 8.69 cm and weight 43 grams approximately.

Second trimester

Fifteenth week

Because the baby's skin has become thin blood vessels can be visible that are insulated by lanugo, a kind of soft layer of hair. Finger and toenails grow with eyebrows and hair on the head starting to grow as well. Three tiny bones of the middle ear have become harder and auditory capacity has been developing. The baby's legs grow longer than the arms and the body's length has been more than the head at this time. The mother can feel certain movements like kicking, flailing or twisting of arms and legs. At this time, the baby weighs about 70 gm and has been 10.1cm long.

Sixteenth week

By week 16, baby and placenta have been of the same size with the baby's length of 4.57 inches or 11.6 cm and weight of approximately 3.53 ounces or 100gm. Fat formation below the skin happens. The genitals have developed enough so that gender of the baby can be determined provided the sonographer is experienced. Mom may be wondering or dreaming if it could be pink or blue. Heartbeats can be heard using external monitor and the heart rate might be double of the mother's heart beat. It is unbelievable that the baby learns breathing with inhaling and exhaling movements with the lungs already start to grow.

Seventeenth week

Seventeen-week gestational baby seems to have more normal human appearance with approximate weight of 140 gm and a length of 13 cm. The body and limbs of the baby have been long enough in proportion to the head that appears more erect. Pads form on tiny toes and fingertips. Eyes still are looking closed. With the umbilical cord getting stronger and thicker it continues to supply blood and nutrients to the growth of the baby. The prostate develops in case the baby is boy. The skeleton changes over to bony structure from cartilages with the bones remaining flexible.

Eighteenth week

Through this week, vernix, a protective layer is also formed on the skin that looks like white cheese along with lanugo, which has already its formation to serve as a shield for the skin of the baby in the amniotic fluid. Alveoli, small air sacs are formed in the lungs and vocal chords too. With the support of an ultrasound, baby's heart with ventricles and chambers could be visualized. The infant measures a length around 14.2 cm by this week and weighs about 190 gm.

Nineteenth week

Hair on the scalp that has sprouted continues to grow and is evident during 19th week. The milk teeth buds have already grown and behind the milk teeth, permanent teeth buds will form over the next couple of weeks. The baby starts to develop uterus, vagina and fallopian tubes if it is a female and the genitals have been distinct if it's a male. Nerves start to have myelin, a layer of fatty substance throughout baby's body, which propels the nerves to have the impulses passing through the nerves smoothly. On swallowing up the amniotic fluid, baby's kidneys will secret urine. Having the same awake and sleep schedule of a neonate, the fetus in the utero takes a position to sleep and to be active. The size is around 15.3 cm and 240 gm at this point.

Twentieth week

This is the stage where pregnancy, the amazing journey is half way with the growth of the baby being slowed down since almost all vital organs have developed tremendously. How amazing the Creator has been! At this milestone, proud mother has perhaps been able to differentiate the heartbeat of the baby from her own, feel the little kicks with the baby's legs reaching the appropriate size, and the cute little one may begin to hear sounds outside of the womb. Thus it is essential for mom to have the baby accustomed to soft music or sounds that make the baby calm after birth. The immune cells transmitted to the baby from mom safeguard the child from viruses for the period of six months after baby's birth. The nerve cells for sense organs to smell, taste, touch, hearing, and vision have developed in the brain. With the baby being a female, she is found to have roughly six million eggs in her ovaries with the growth of the baby's uterus. By 20th week, the infant weighs approximately 300 grams and is about 16.4 cm long.

Twenty-first week

Baby's white blood cells have been in the process of production to act as a protective system for the body from infections and diseases. Skin has turned to be more opaque, tongue formed completely, and if infant is a girl the womb and vagina for baby have formed. Swallowing has improved with the growth of digestive system. Wake and sleep patterns are uniform. With the measurement being crown to heel, infant weighs nearly 360 grams and around 26.7 cm of length.

Twenty-second week

Eyebrows and eyelids have completely grown. Fingernails are formed up to the tip of the fingers. Liver begins to have bilirubin breakdown that has been produced by red blood cells. If the child happens to be a boy his testes start to descend to scrotum with primitive sperm formation and testosterone production. The mom needs to get ready for all those 'whys' from her child's brain since brain starts to have speedy growth particularly in germinal matrix, the highly vascularized part of brain and the brain factory continues to expand amazingly till the child reaches its fifth birth anniversary. The child can be able to hear everything clearly that the mom speaks, reads, or sings and during this stage baby grasps whatever mom talks or reads to baby often (to recall a story in Mahabharata, Indian epic, Abimanyu, son of Arjuna learnt the technique of breaking chakravyuha alone but not the technique of coming out of it since his mother fell asleep when Arjuna taught how to exit from chakravyuha just on overhearing his father's explanation to his mother Subhadra while in her womb. He later on applied that technique during Kurukshetra war but as he was not known to come out of that vyuha he was knifed to death ultimately).
The baby weighs almost to 430 gm and length is 27.8 cm.

Twenty-third week

The eyes have developed but still with iris lacking pigmentation. Bones in the middle ear get stronger. With pancreas producing essential hormones, child begins insulin production to crush sugars. At this time, the baby's average weight would be 501gm and length 28.9 cm.

Twenty-fourth week

Taste buds form and this enables the baby to observe and signal its distaste while mom takes some strange or bitter taste food. Tiny creases appear on the palms. Lungs develop respiratory branches and cells that make a greasy substance known as surfactant to support inflating of air sacs. Considered as a viable baby at this time, weight would be 600gm and length would be 30 cm, mostly a ruler's length.

Twenty-fifth week

The features of the spinal cord including joints, ligaments and rings are formed. Lung blood vessels develop. Nostrils open (to smell the perfumes). The nerves around the mouth and lip region are more sensitive at this point. Dexterity of hands improves to make a fist and hold objects in palms. Weight and length would be 660 gm and 34.6 cm respectively.

Twenty-sixth week

Baby's eyes now are open and starting to have blinking during this week. Retinas form. Activity of brain nerves for hearing and vision can be noticeable. On scanning of fetal brain, it reveals reaction to touch too. On focusing a light on mom's abdomen, baby flexes its head that indicates the functioning of optic nerves, according to latest medical research. The spine now consists of 150 joints, 33 rings, and about 1,000 ligaments. The infant weighs around 760gm and is 35.6cm long.

Twenty-seventh week

Brain continues to grow further. Auditory response develops more recognizing mom and dad's voices. Eyelids can open to a greater extent distinguishing light and dark now. The little one sizes about 36.6 cm with 875 gm of weighing.

Third trimester

Twenty-eighth week

Eyebrows and eyelashes get more prominent at this time. Scalp hair grows long enough, certain babies with almost no hair at all, where as some others seem to get ready for maiden haircut. Eyes are in full form. Muscle tone improves with fat gets added in third trimester. Lungs have been capable of breathing now, still if born medical attention is required for life-sustenance. Weight is almost 1005 gm with a length of 37.6 cm.

Twenty-ninth week

Accumulation of fat beneath the skin continues getting ready to step into the 'real world' with head in proportion to body seemingly more or less a neonate. Becomes sensitive to changes in light, sound, taste, and smell showing preferences or pooh-poohs for certain tastes or smells at this time. Moving from side to side but head is up, mom can feel like somersault performance of baby. Length would be 38.6 cm and weight 1153 gm.

Thirtieth week

Head becomes bigger in proportion to brain growth and mom should continue teaching music, maths, literature or just talking to baby as she does earlier. Previous lanugo starts to vanish with the infant's own hair growing. Bone marrow is ready for red blood cell production to help the child's body for transportation of oxygen and removal of wastes such as carbon monoxide and other gases. Infant is able to produce tears, of course, within mom's womb. Now babe is 39.9 cm long and weighs 1319 gm.

Thirty-first week

Accumulation of fat continues that helps in transforming the baby's skin color to rosy pink as a neonate. Bones develop and harden with calcium, phosphorus and iron kept stored. New nerve cells of the brain grow rapidly. Rhythmic heartbeat makes the mom feel that her baby is another A.R. Rehman. Lungs have been the major part to be grown completely. Yet the baby needs the support of mom to breathe on her/his own. The babe is 41.1 cm long and weighs 1502 gm.

Thirty-second week

The entire five senses have been functioning. Toenails have fully formed yet to be geared up for a French pedicure. Scalp hair grows further. (Will s/he have mom's silky hair or dad's curly hair or vice versa?) Entering into the eighth month of the journey, screening of the brains of the baby reveals dream sleep patterns (REM sleep). (Does mom suppose to have an idea of what s/he would be dreaming about?). Baby is up to 1702 gm now and 42.4 cm long. Mom may suspect her son or daughter is not making movements around as much now. Moms need not be panic and baby is all right just running short of space because of enormous growth of baby.

Thirty-third week

At this time, the level of amniotic fluid would be the highest of pregnancy. Neurons and synapses in the brain develop to a huge extent coordinating the baby to suck, swallow and breathe taking deep breaths of the water. The infant is now 43.7 cm long and weighs 1918 gm with the head size rising to 3/8 of an inch on account of rapid brain development.

Thirty-fourth week

Now the lilliputian seems to be like a neonate completely with her eyes being opened while awakening and shut when slumbering. Immunities from the mom's blood are being imparted to the infant that continues to be built up until birthing and after birth breast milk will substitute these immunities. The child may already have shifted to a head-down posture to get ready for birth into the pelvis of mom with the head pressing against mom's cervix. Little one's length is 45 cm and weight is 2146 gm.

Thirty-fifth week

Around this week, accumulation of fat makes the arms and legs pleasingly plump regulating child's body temperature and leaving charming tiny dimples on knees and elbows. The testes, if it is a boy get completed their descent. Mom's uterus is almost overfilled since baby occupies most of the space of uterus and mom feels as if her chest has been running out of room. The average baby weighs almost 2383 gm with 46.2 cm long. Infants born now survive without major problems in the long run.

Thirty-sixth week

Fat collection underneath the skin dimples tot's elbows and knees making creases at the neck and wrists. The skin becomes 'baby' soft. Gums have been more fixed. Pair of kidneys has fully developed. The liver begins processing waste material. At this stage, breathing becomes comfort while walking may probably be just contrary for mom. There have been just few more days to go for mom to have that 'lightening spell' right prior to labor. The average size of the youngling is now 47.4 cm and 2622 gm. In between now and birth babe will gain about an ounce a day approximately 28.34 gm.

Thirty-seventh week

Though medically full-term baby now still the baby takes advantage of being safely placed in the womb. Since uterine wall of mom elongates and gets thinned permitting more light to penetrate in, the toddler habituates distinct cycle of daily activity. So mom has to establish good pattern of living herself at this hour. This week, the average size is about 2859 gm now and 48.6 cm length.

Thirty-eighth week

By this stage, the child accumulates so much of meconium in the intestine being the first bowel movement of the baby after birth. The tot may have hair on the full head or in some cases just scanty hair and color differentiates depending upon the hereditary tree. Mom may observe the child has some sounds of hiccups due to amniotic fluid getting into the windpipe. No problem to be scared. In a few days, the child sees the world outside the womb. Baby's head circumference and abdomen are of the same size. If it is an average baby weight would be 3083 gm and 49.8 cm long.

Thirty-ninth week

The lanugo has almost vanished, probably a little bit on shoulders, arms and legs that disappear on its own at the right time. Lungs have matured enough with increased surfactant production to take on the outside world. Added to normal fat, the little one gets stored a special 'brown' fat in the nape of the neck and between shoulders. These fat cells are essential for thermogenesis during initial weeks. Infant's weight is around 3288 gm and length is 19.9 50.7 cm as the infant has grown rapidly.

Fortieth week

Most of the vernix has disappeared with little trace and water is approximately 60-75%. Lungs develop till birthing period. Baby continues to grow; hair and nails as well. Mom has to trim those nails soon after birth or shield the face from making scratches using mittens. Tiny breast buds appear on both male and female tots. The baby now weighs 3462 gm and is 51.2 cm long. Mom has approached the climax of amazing journey of pregnancy.

Mom's due date may be a guessing as to when the babe enters this world, but most of babies turn up from two weeks prior to the due date and two weeks since due date. Labor being aroused by baby's movements as signals to the mom's body s/he is just ready to breathe new air out of womb. Any day in between these days, prodigious mom will be cradling her bairn! Yes. She indeed will cherish those millisecond moments of glorious journey throughout her life altho her babe may be 'pink or blue' or hair be grey or black or skin be rosy pink or wheatish whatever it seems to be. Of course, she is a great Creator.

Congratulations to the mom for a wonderful and mysterious 38-40 week-long pregnancy, an amazing journey, however, the journey of motherhood that never ends, but continues as long as the mom exists in the universe.


Author: SURAJ12 Jan 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 0

Its very important for the persons who have not any knowledge about the pregnancy, Now my wife is preganant and this is useful for me. Now I am trying to follow this article.

Author: Bhavani13 Jan 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 4

Hi Suraj,

First of all, I congratulate you for to-be-dad in the near future. I indeed feel great if this article helps you to have knowledge in the magic of pregnancy. I always did wonder how this would have happened in earlier days but after being knowledgeable of these various stages of pregnancy through my son who is a doctor the whole journey of pregnancy seems to be amazing, in fact.

I would like to say something to you at this time. Take care of your wife not alone from physical health standpoint but from psychological aspect as well. Let her get ready to enter into the crucial part of life, lovely motherhood and being a beloved daddy the nourishment you provide to her will have your baby to be a good human being and endurance to meet out the challenges in the life as a whole. You and your wife can talk to your baby (don't think s/he is just a fetus and wont understand what you talk, but remember this is your gene), teach the baby whatever you and your wife would like to and let your daughter/son learn everything as you both make her/his to learn. Let your wife be happy, think positive, stay relaxed, and overall treat her as she is your first baby since she is giving a life to your baby.

Wish you all the best. Happy journey of parenthood

Author: SUPARNA14 Jan 2012 Member Level: Gold   Points : 1

This article is really a very helpful one for women. I appreciate the author for adding such a resourceful article to the resource section. A keen study of the article can be very helpful for pregnancy.

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