Knowing there is life growing inside you is exciting, and it is incredible to think about the growth that is accomplished in nine months. Many women have said they have felt little flutters and kicks as their babies develop throughout their pregnancies. The development of human life in the womb is just amazing. Did you know that everything about you – including your height, eye color, and voice – was all determined at the time of fertilization? Month-by-month the baby grows in the safety and comfort of the mother’s womb until the big day of the birth arrives. Keep reading to learn more about what daily life in the womb is like for an unborn baby.
Your baby will change a lot throughout the three trimesters. Each trimester is a set of about three months. The first trimester spans from conception to 12 weeks. During this time, your baby will change from a small grouping of cells to a fetus starting to have a baby’s features. The second trimester is often thought of as the best part of the experience. By this time, any morning sickness is probably gone, and the discomfort of early pregnancy has faded. The baby will begin to develop facial features, and you may also start to feel movement as your baby begins to flip and turn in the uterus. During this trimester, many people find out the sex of the baby by having an anatomy scan.
The final part of the pregnancy is the third trimester. You may be tempted to start the countdown until your due date. Each week of this final stage of development helps prepare your baby for childbirth. Throughout this third semester, your baby will gain weight quickly, adding body fat that will help after birth. Each day is vital for your baby’s development. However, what is life like in the womb? Is it much different than when a baby is born? Ultrasounds and other elements in modern science have allowed doctors to see what is inside. It seems like a womb acts like a sensory playground for the new life growing inside of you. Here are some fascinating facts about the daily life of a fetus in the womb.
The day starts for the baby as it does for the average person: with waking up. A fetus goes through a complete transformation from conception, and much of that tremendous growth is done while asleep. You might be surprised at how much they sleep. Scientists said fetuses at 32 weeks old sleep about 90 to 95 percent of the time. Much of the activity that is felt during a pregnancy is when the new life is sleeping! The sleep patterns continue throughout the third trimester. At the end of the pregnancy, the soon-to-be baby sleeps about 85 to 90 percent of the time.
From early on in your pregnancy, your baby is already more like a newborn than you might realize. Your baby will sleep, move around, listen to sounds, and even have thoughts and memories. They spend 90 to 95 percent of their day sleeping. Babies in the womb spend time in deep sleep, in the REM stage, and in an indeterminate state. Sleep studies of babies in the womb indicate there are four stages. The first two are for lighter sleep, whereas the second two represent deep, healing sleep. Although there are limits to what researchers can learn about fetal rest, we can only imagine what they are dreaming about!
With so much sleeping, it should be expected that the fetus can also dream during this time. However, what could they be dreaming about? Studies have shown that when fetuses in the third trimester show signs of REM sleep, it is also known as rapid eye movement. Technology has been able to detect how your eyes move behind eyelids versus how they move when the eyes are closed. Did you know the brain cycles back from REM sleep to non-REM sleep? The research states that this can happen when babies are around 32 weeks, meaning that they can dream while catching some Zs at this age.
Just like babies after birth, they probably dream about what they know – the sensations they feel in the womb. Some people might even argue that the babies must be dreaming about food based on the intensity of those pregnancy cravings. However, scientists have no way to ask babies whether they dream or what they are dreaming about. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is when grownups do most of their dreaming. Scientists have discovered that babies in the womb may start experiencing REM sleep around week 23. It’s important to note that adults do not always dream during REM sleep, so it can’t be guaranteed.
When they are not sleeping, fetuses in the womb can examine the environment around them. Even though eyes are fully developed in the fourth month, babies in the seventh month of development can open their eyes for the first time even though their eyes are fully developed by the fourth month. Even though the eyes are still just formed and barely opening, that does not mean the baby cannot see what is going on around them. They will be able to see their own limbs, the inside of the womb, the umbilical cord, and more, though they will be viewing it all through amniotic fluid.
Another interesting fact about development is that light can penetrate through the walls of the womb. This notion means that even before they are born, babies can react to lightness and darkness. They can also tell the difference between a day in the sunshine and a stroll through the moonlight. Between weeks 26 and 28, they first open their eyes. Their vision is understandably somewhat blurry, but they can see. They might even respond with a flutter of activity to bright sources of light. During pregnancy, some women will use a flashlight and point it at their stomach to get their baby to respond and provide some kind of movement.
Fetuses can be quite active during the time they are awake. They do not like to stay in one place. At 37 weeks, babies have developed enough coordination to complete several tasks. They can grasp, kick, and interact with their surroundings. This fact means that the babies can kick off the walls in the womb. This action stimulates walking and jumping. They may also do strange things like lick the side of the womb once they get cuddled up close to it. Mom can be just like one big bounce house ready for play. If your baby is bouncing around or turning in your womb, it is a good sign.
An active baby is a healthy baby. Babies playing in the womb is beneficial for the mother too. It helps the mother to not only bond but enhance the anticipation of her newborn child. Feeling your baby move makes you want to protect and care for your child before you are even able to see or hold him or her physically. The other action is also a necessary part of pregnancy. The acrobatic movements help stimulate the hormonal changes in a woman’s body, essential to prepare for birth and nursing. While you might be eager to meet and hold your baby, enjoy each little milestone.
Scientists have known for quite some time that fetuses have been able to hear outside the womb. Around 18 weeks of pregnancy, your little one hears their very first sounds. By 24 weeks, those little ears are more rapidly developing. A common misconception is that babies who listen to Mozart are more intelligent after they are born. Research instead reveals that babies react to outside stimuli while they are in utero, and recordings have shown that the voices are only muted by half when they are heard inside the womb. Don’t feel obligated to play classical music if that is not what you enjoy!
At 26 weeks, babies may begin to respond to the different sound vibrations in the womb, which is when many can hear the daily interactions going on around them. They will listen to their mothers’ heartbeats, air moving in and out of your lungs, your growling stomach, and even the sound of blood moving through the umbilical cord. At 30 weeks, they can hear outside the womb, such as music and voices. Your baby’s sensitivity to sound will improve even more as each week passes. The most powerful sound your baby will hear in the womb is your voice. By the third trimester, your baby can already recognize it.
Fetuses are becoming familiar with speech patterns.
It has been known for a long time that babies can hear things outside the womb during development. While they are listening, fetuses are becoming familiar with the way certain words are spoken and used. The fetus is probably not recognizing the words themselves, just the way they sound. Around 26 or 27 weeks, babies begin to respond to sound vibrations in the womb, and many of those stimuli a baby hears on a day-to-day basis come directly from the parent. By about 30 weeks, they will begin to listen to sounds outside the womb, such as other voices and music.
Being able to hear specific speech patterns and intonations is laying the groundwork for speech. It can be essential to take note of this development during pregnancy. Some studies have shown that babies tend to recognize and feel comforted by speech patterns that they were exposed to in utero, like stories, songs, and TV jingles after birth. By hearing speech patterns and rhythms in the womb, your baby learns his or her primary language. In fact, studies have shown that sound repetition is incorporated into your baby’s memory. When your baby is introduced repeatedly to a sound, their memory stimulates the recognition of that sound.
Babies in the womb start to recognize familiar sounds.
Once the third trimester arrives, the fetus can find some familiarity with its temporary home. At 25 weeks, babies have been known to respond to calls. Since there are still many more weeks for development, they will stand to know their parents’ voices even more before the delivery. They will hear their parent’s heartbeat, their voice, and the sound of their body functioning around it. No type of music seems to have more benefits than the others, so mothers-to-be, take note of what your babies are responding to. The movements will be able to let you know what the baby likes to hear.
As familiar sounds are repeatedly introduced, and your baby’s memory recognizes that sound over and over, they are growing. Their brainwave patterns identify their memory of the recognized sound. Other studies have shown that the baby’s brain learns repeated sounds in the wombs and learns to recognize words and their variations. One study indicated that the neural signals for identifying sound, including vowels, are visible as memory traces in your baby at birth. Talking to your baby while they are in your womb will help them grow, develop, and be able to identify familiar sounds when they are outside the womb.
Babies living in the womb are practicing what they will do after they are born. While motor skills do not typically start working until the third trimester, babies will begin doing the necessary activities that all babies do. The sucking reflex doesn’t function until later, but this does not stop them from putting their thumb in their mouths. Many 4D scans have shown babies grabbing their different body parts, squirming and fidgeting, and attempting to find a comfortable position to lie. Some have even reveal expressive facial movements, as the scans show. Besides, fetuses inside the womb can cry silently.
Ultrasounds show the fetuses displaying traditional crying behavior, such as opening their mouths, depressing their tongues, and gasping irregularly. Although thumb sucking is a common childhood habit, babies do not waste any time getting started. You might even see your baby chomping down on one of their cute little fingers on an ultrasound. The exciting part is that the hand your baby prefers in the womb could indicate whether they will be left or right-handed. Another common thing fetuses practice is turning over and over. Although it might seem a little bit strange, you can feel assured that these are all prevalent baby things.
Lungs are one of the last things that are developed during pregnancy. This fact is because they do not need them. Babies can get all of the oxygen they need to thrive through the umbilical cords. However, they will start practicing breathing while they are in the womb using the amniotic fluid surrounding it. At just nine weeks old, the baby begins opening its mouth and taking in amniotic fluid, even swelling it in action similar to breathing. Doctors can use this to check the baby’s swallowing reflex and check to see if the baby is developing its ability to breathe.
Once on the outside, the air triggers the baby to take its first breath, and only then does it begin to breathe. After nine months of growing inside the mother’s body, the baby undergoes a complicated physical transition as they exit the womb. Studies have shown that this transition is one of the most intricate things our bodies will ever do. While babies essentially practice breathing in utero, their lungs are not used for breathing until they take their first breath outside of the womb. The breathing practice is a developmental milestone that sets the new baby up for success during their first cry.
While it is true that the baby gets nutrients through the placenta and amniotic fluid, that does not mean they are not developing a sense of taste. They are, however, creating a sense of taste early in the pregnancy. By around week 16, taste pores have grown, so your baby will have also started swallowing amniotic fluid. As the fluid flows across her tongue on the way to the digestive system, molecules in the fluid will interact with the taste buds. Your baby will experience their first taste. The food you eat during pregnancy not only nourishes the baby while in the womb but could shape future food preferences later in life.
The amount of amniotic fluid they swallow and the number of tastes they have exposure will keep increasing throughout the second and third trimester. Not only does the amniotic fluid carry robust flavors, but by the time the third trimester rolls around, your baby can recognize whether food is bitter, sweet, garlicky, or sour. The fetuses are also able to show signs of food preference. Research has shown a baby’s food preference will depend on whether they were introduced to them while they are in the womb. What you eat while pregnant will help shape what your baby will enjoy eating, even years later.
While in the womb, babies will relieve themselves as the need arrives. By the end of the first trimester, the fetus is swallowing amniotic fluid daily. The liquid has to go somewhere after it passes through the stomach and is processed by the kidneys. The waste produced by the kidneys is dispersed back into the amniotic fluid. Babies pee that waste into the amniotic fluid. Soon after, the cycle begins again with that same amniotic fluid the baby peed into. While it may sound disgusting, it is good practice for the baby’s body once it gets to the outside world.
By the time the baby is full-term, nearly 100 percent of the amniotic fluid surrounding him is urine. Although it might seem gross that your baby swallows amniotic fluid, excretes it in the form of urine, and then swallows it again, the process tells your doctor a lot about your baby’s health. Your amniotic levels are monitored closely throughout pregnancy. Rates that are too low could indicate that the baby’s kidneys are not functioning correctly. On the other hand, levels that are too high can tell that the baby is having difficulty swallowing. Your doctor will monitor those levels to ensure both you and the baby remain healthy throughout your pregnancy.
While a baby is growing, it can also develop the ability to express itself. Babies will practice facial expressions and emotions, such as crying, smiling, and even laughing. While it is impossible to see tears, doctors have stated that scans have revealed babies are mimicking the facial movements. When a baby cries, the face wrinkles, the lower lip trembles, and the eyes open and shut. When the baby is happy, they may use their facial muscles to smile. Your baby can display their emotions from an early point in their development. It is no secret that babies are born with distinct differences and activity patterns that suggest individual temperament.
It has been proved that some of these qualities develop from the very beginning, inside the womb. Your feelings during pregnancy can impact the baby too. Some people have said that their babies’ personalities and emotions inside the womb are the same after birth. For instance, if their baby was continually moving around and kicking, they were extremely active babies once they were born. Sometimes during the ultrasound, you can see small glimpses of your baby’s personality. They might be sucking their thumb, smiling, kicking, or even waving at the screen. Fetuses can show their characters even when they are in the womb.
Hiccups are involuntary bodily functions, which causes the diaphragm to extract. It is often caused by drinking or consuming too much. However, kids and adults are not the only ones who can hiccup. Babies in utero are also able to hiccup, which can be a random or daily thing. This notion is something that the mother can feel happening. It often feels different than other movements like kicks or flips. The behavior is considered normal. You may begin to notice fetal hiccups in the second or third trimester. Many moms start to feel these ‘jerky motions’ in their sixth month of pregnancy.
However, like with fetal movement, everyone starts to feel them at a different time. The cause of hiccups is not well understood. One theory is that fetal hiccups play a role in lung maturation. Generally speaking, after week 32, it is less common to experience fetal hiccups every day. If your baby continues to hiccup daily after this point, with episodes lasting over 15 minutes, you may want to consult with your doctor. In addition to feeling hiccups in the womb, baby hiccups can even be observed on an ultrasound. Not much is known why babies hiccup in the womb, but it has been suggested that it could be a way for babies to regulate the amount of fluid in the amniotic sac.
From nearly the beginning, fetuses can float around and get used to their surroundings for the next nine months. As early as the first week of development, fetuses can navigate through the amniotic fluid. Babies cannot always control their movements inside the womb, and they can respond to much of their mother’s actions, especially toward the end of the pregnancy. They may bounce up and down when you laugh. Your baby can feel the impact of your experiences. In addition to laughing and jumping, the baby may also feel the effects of a bumpy car ride. Throughout the development, the baby is perfecting how to balance and adjust.
The amniotic fluid serves a few purposes. It provides a space in which the fetus can continue to grow freely. It also helps to protect the fetus from injury. The amniotic sac is extremely strong and resilient. It also provides a consistent temperature for the baby to grow in. The amniotic fluid also gives the baby fluids to breathe, swallow, and develop its musculoskeletal system. If the levels of amniotic fluid are too low for the baby to float around in, there is a slight risk of intrauterine growth restriction. The protective amniotic fluid contains critical nutrients, hormones, and antibodies for the baby.
Babies in the womb are in tune with their mother’s emotions.
During the third trimester, the fetus can start to feel its mother’s emotions. During a sad movie, the baby may be able to tell you are feeling down, and it will begin to feel unhappy with you. Your baby may become more active while you laugh, and it may even smile or exhibit emotions associated with laughing. Feeling scared could evoke feelings of uneasiness. Another interesting fact is that after birth, the babies may show signs of remembering those exact feelings. The sad movie you watched then may produce the same sounds and remind the baby how sorrowful you felt. The baby may then burst into tears as a result.
Scientists believe this behavior has something to do with the shared preferences between babies and mothers. Studies have shown that babies not only pick up on their mother’s stress, but they also show physiological changes of their own that correspond to their mom’s anxiety. It is not news that emotions are contagious. Be sure to find ways to decrease your stress levels. You might try to incorporate deep breathing, exercising, eating right, getting some fresh air, or asking your partner for a back rub. By ensuring you are taking care of your needs, you are doing what is necessary for a healthier you and a healthier baby.
From the moment of conception, the fetus is growing at an exponential rate. In the first eight weeks of pregnancy, many vital developments are starting to grow. The brain and spinal cord are forming; the eyes, ears, and nose are developing; and tissues that form the heart are beginning to beat. After the eighth week, all major organs and body systems have started to take form and develop. Buds for limbs have appeared with hands and feet that resemble paddles. During the first two trimesters, the baby goes through so much development from a bundle of cells to a whole, complete human who can react to stimuli, food, and emotions.
During the third trimester and final part of the pregnancy, your baby continues to grow each week as they prepare for childbirth. Throughout the third trimester, your baby will gain weight quickly, adding body fat that will help after birth. In the eighth month, your baby develops body fat reserves and can weigh as much as five pounds. Moving onto the ninth month, the baby will continue to grow and mature. The lungs are close to being fully developed at this point. The baby’s reflexes are coordinated so he or she can blink, close their eyes, turn their head, grasp firmly, and be responsive. The baby grows to about 17 to 19 inches long. Furthermore, the baby weighs between five and a half and six and a half pounds.
By the time the third month of pregnancy rolls around, fetuses are developing at an even faster rate. The buds for future teeth appear, and intestines are beginning to form; the arms are also longer than the legs. The bones and muscles are starting to grow, and the skin is fragile and transparent. The fetus’s backbone is soft and can flex at will. By about 12 weeks, your baby will have started to form fingers as well as thin nails. With each passing month, the baby builds strength with their organs, bones, and brain development. Each additional week the baby will continue to mature and become stronger.
It has been said that the baby’s kick strength can impact the baby’s development in the womb. The power of a baby’s kick while in the womb grows stronger over time, peaking midway through the second trimester. This movement aids in the development of bones and muscles, similar to how exercise helps in adults. While the kicks’ strength drops after 30 weeks, mainly because there is less room to move around, the development continues. The baby’s thrusts and legs are now meeting more resistance. Even with the weaker kicks, they are helping to strengthen the baby’s leg muscles.
Fetuses are learning to flex while inside the womb.
Between 13 and 16 weeks, the fetus has already formed a neck and an outer ear, and it also has developed external sex organs. Most modern ultrasounds may not be able to determine the gender of your baby for a few more weeks after much more development has occurred. Another astonishing growth is the ability to flex the arms and legs. The newfound movement will be an essential skill to master over the next few months. The kidneys are also now fully functioning and can produce urine. As the fetus builds their strength, they are more likely to do arm movements, including what appears to be a muscle flex.
A flexed baby can use their spine, back, and shoulder muscles to help themselves be born. The flexed babies’ bodies are lined up to make their kicks at the top of the womb be more effective in moving them down through the pelvis. Even as early as 12 weeks, the baby’s movements become more purposeful. At this stage, the babies can open and close their hands and curl their toes. They can wiggle their arms and legs. Initially, they move all of their arms and legs together, and eventually, they will move them limb by limb individually. At 16 weeks, the baby begins flexing its limbs in a more coordinated manner as the nervous system develops.
At the halfway point of the pregnancy, the fetus has a functioning gallbladder that can produce bile, which is vital to digest nutrients. The skin is wrinkled, and the baby has a waxy coating and very fine hair. Now that the baby is becoming more active, it may start to develop a regular sleeping and waking routine for each day. This time is also when most mothers report feeling their babies move regularly. Babies may begin to establish habits and patterns where they are awake and asleep at consistent times from one day to the next. While it is not always a guarantee, those established patterns inside the womb can carry over into their lives after birth.
Every baby is unique, so there is no typical or standard routine. However, we do know that a baby’s routine in the womb is in response to the mom’s own day-to-day routine. As every mom is different, so is every baby. Some babies will be lulled to sleep by you rushing around, whereas others will do somersaults in response to the hormones. The key is knowing your baby’s reactions to your usual routine and, in turn, how they respond to those routines and what their patterns are. Sometimes your baby will be active, and other times, they will be resting. Don’t be too quick to compare your pregnancy with others, as everyone is different. Just follow your instincts and discuss any concerns with your doctor.
During the second trimester, the fetus is continuing to grow at a fantastic rate. The brain has taken command of many of the body’s complicated systems, directing the steady contractions and the chest muscles. The tear ducts are also developing at this time, along with the critical identifying feature of finger and toe prints. The baby is also beginning to learn another superb reflex by the time it reaches 24 weeks old: blinking. The baby’s brain development improves with each passing day inside the womb. As an expecting mother, be sure to consult with your doctor on the nutrients needed to support your baby’s brain development.
During the third trimester, the baby’s brain continues to grow with the rapid development of neurons and wiring. The baby’s brain roughly triples in weight during the last 13 weeks of gestation. At the same time, the cerebellum or motor control is developing fast. All of this growth is huge news for the cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is responsible for thinking, remembering, and feeling. Although this crucial area of the brain is developing rapidly during pregnancy, it only starts to function when a full-term baby is born. It continues to steadily and gradually mature in the first few years of life.
One of the most critical advancements in the womb is forming what will become the baby’s ears. The early development begins in the second month of pregnancy and continues throughout the process. The cells inside the embryo begin arranging themselves to form the face, brain, eyes, nose, and ears. At 18 weeks, the fetus will be able to hear its first sounds. A few more weeks after that, the ears continue to grow more rapidly, and your baby’s sensitivity to noise will improve up until delivery. Studies show that the sounds the baby hears while in the womb are soothing and comforting once the baby is born. That can include particular nursery rhymes, books, or songs.
As the baby continues to grow, more sounds will become audible to them. Around week 25, babies in the womb have been shown to respond to voices and noise. That also means turning their heads in response. Since the baby is surrounded by amniotic fluid plus your body’s layers and their amniotic sac, outside sounds heard in utero are often muffled. The louder the sound, the more likely your baby can listen to it. Any sounds they can get used to in utero will be less likely to startle your baby after they are born. In most cases, just carrying on with everyday life sounds is the best way to go.
Babies in the womb are learning how to use all four senses.
By the time a fetus is 29 weeks old, its touch receptors are fully developed, and it would touch inside the womb. At 31 weeks, a baby can get signals from all five senses. From sensing light, to tasting food and listening to the sound of its mother’s voice, the fetus can detect so much more around it. Other significant developments during this time include bones harden, hair continues to grow, and weight is gained quickly. The baby is adapting to their senses, including seeing their home inside the womb and hearing their mother’s voice. It also has been shown that talking to the baby while they are in the womb can help begin and strengthen that bond.
Your baby begins to develop on a sensory level from the moment of conception. The first sense to develop is the sense of touch, which emerges as early as three weeks. By the 12th week, it can feel and respond to touch on the entire body, except for the top of his head. Taste buds emerge as early as eight weeks. Smell develops alongside taste. The elastic uterus provides constant, deep pressure by the third trimester, similar to an all-day hug. The uterus is the ultimate environment for the development and nurturing of a fetus. The sensory systems develop throughout pregnancy.
The development of taste and smell helps prepare the fetus for life outside the womb.
While fetuses are tasting and smelling in the womb, they are preparing for life after delivery. The amniotic fluid helps refer the embryo to the smell of its mother. The fetus will also be introduced to the taste of breast milk through the amniotic fluid. Between 13 and 15 weeks, a fetus has developed taste buds similar to those in adults, and it will soon use this new development to sample different flavors from its mother’s diet. Research has also revealed that the amniotic fluid swallowed in utero can taste like spices consumed, such as curry or garlic. It might help shape future food preferences.
Smell develops simultaneously with taste. Since aromas are essentially chemicals that are found to be present in amniotic fluid, it is understandable that your baby will be able to smell in utero. That is because the substances pass from the amniotic fluid onto the baby’s smell receptors in the nasal cavity. A plug of tissue protects the nasal cavity until 28 weeks. After that 28 week mark, your baby will be able to smell and also respond to scents. Becoming familiar with these smells while in utero can help ease the transition after birth. You might be shocked at how your baby is quickly developing.
Fetuses get ready for the birth once they hit full-term.
As the third trimester progresses, the fetus readies itself for delivery. It typically turns into a head-down posture and drops into the lower pelvic region. If the baby remains in the breech position, your doctor may manually flip the baby when you are 37 weeks. A baby is considered full term at 37 weeks. More fat accumulates during this period as well, typically around the elbows, knees, and shoulders. Weight is vital during this time since the fetus gains about half a pound per week during the last month of pregnancy. Your baby and body know what to do to prepare for childbirth.
If this is your first baby, they will usually move down into your pelvis before the birth. That is referred to as engaging, and when it happens, any breathlessness you have been having will probably ease. Since your baby develops inside a bag of fluid called the amniotic sac. When your baby is ready to be born, the sac breaks. That is what is referred to as your water breaking. It can occur at any time during labor. Sometimes it happens before you go into labor. Most women go into labor on their own within 24 hours. Similar to how pregnancies are different, many women’s deliveries also differ.
While in the womb, fetuses get to know their mothers.
In addition to learning how to maneuver through the amniotic fluid, the fetuses are getting familiar with their mother. Experts say that the maternal bond between a woman and her biological child typically develops during pregnancy. Bonding is essential because it gives babies a sense of security and self-esteem. This time begins when the fetus gets to know the sound of its mother’s voice. They start to listen to moms’ voices as early as ten weeks. It is also essential for parents to feel connected to their newest family members. Expecting mothers can talk to their babies while in utero to help their baby become familiar with their voices.
Some parents talk about feeling connected to their baby from the moment it is conceived. For others, that feeling develops and grows as the baby does. Fathers tend to begin bonding later as they can’t necessarily feel all of the same experiences, such as the baby’s kicks. While in the womb, the baby can get to know their mothers by hearing their voices and learning the environment’s sounds. They might listen to your favorite song or artist. You can even play games with the baby by pressing lightly on your abdomen, and you might even feel the baby kickback.
Female fetuses are equipped with millions of eggs.
After the fetus has developed its sex organs, it prepares for life outside the womb, even years down the line. When a woman is 20 weeks pregnant, a fetus with female sex organs is equipped with seven million eggs. There will be two million eggs by the time of delivery. The number of eggs will decrease significantly as the woman gets older. The typical woman only ovulates about 400 times throughout her life, once during each menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle is on hold until a girl reaches puberty. There will be no new egg cells made during your lifetime.
By the time a girl reaches puberty, she has between 300,000 and 400,000 eggs. You might be surprised to learn that before puberty, more than 10,000 eggs die each month. After beginning her menstrual cycle, a woman loses about 1,000 immature eggs every month. Scientists aren’t sure what prompts this to happen, but they know it is not influenced by most things we can control. That means it is not influenced by your hormones, birth control pills, pregnancies, or overall health. In addition to a loss in the number of eggs, the eggs’ quality also decreases with age.
A recent study suggests that social interactions exist even in the womb. The University of Turin and the University of Parma in Italy used a special kind of ultrasonography to determine the motion while in utero. The researchers found that the twin fetuses began reaching their prenatal companions by the 14th week of gestation. Over the following weeks, the twin fetuses made constant contact, and more of their movements were made toward their womb neighbor. Twins in the womb begin to develop that indescribable bond that carries over after birth. They will understand each other in a way that no one else possibly can.
Most mothers can agree that newborns are social creatures just hours after birth. They prefer to look at faces over objects. They even imitate facial expressions. Studies have suggested that the desire for social interactions exists in the womb. That is identified after studying twins in the womb. Following week 14, they reduced the number of movements towards themselves. Instead, movements were made towards their prenatal companion. These movements often included stroking the head or back. The actions were more accurate than self-directed activities. It showed that twin fetuses are aware of their counterparts and prefer to interact with them.
Most healthcare providers will have you wait to come in for an appointment until you have had a positive home pregnancy test. These tests are very accurate once you have enough hCG circulating throughout your body. This exam can occur as soon as a few weeks after conception. When you reach out to your healthcare provider, they may ask you to take a prenatal vitamin. These supplements contain something called folic acid. You must get at least 400mcg of folic acid each day during your pregnancy to ensure that your baby’s neural tube develops correctly. Some healthcare providers may even suggest that you take prenatal vitamins with folic acid even when you are not pregnant.
The daily life in the womb is continually changing as the fetus matures and develops. Much of what is changing is helping the baby learn to live outside the uterus after delivery. The crying, tasting, yawning, growing, and other developments will all be as much a part of their daily life out of the womb as it was in utero. During pregnancy, it is crucial to listen to the advice of a medical professional. Women should schedule regular visits to measure their baby’s progress and ensure a healthy delivery. Any questions about your baby’s development should be directed to your doctor.
Your baby spends the majority of their time asleep.
From early on in the pregnancy, your baby is more like a newborn than you might realize. The baby will sleep, move around, listen to sounds, and have thoughts and memories. Just like newborns, fetuses spend the majority of their time sleeping. At 32 weeks, your baby will sleep between 90 and 95 percent of the day. Some of these hours are spent in deep sleep while some are in REM sleep; other times, a fetus might be in an indeterminate state due to its immature brain. During REM sleep, the eyes move back and forth, just like an adult’s eyes.
Some have said that fetuses also dream while they are sleeping. Closer to birth, the baby will sleep slightly less, at 85 to 90 percent of the time, the same as a newborn. Studies have been done to understand the baby’s sleep patterns better. By tracking their fetal heart rate, scientists found that the results demonstrated regular sleep and waking patterns. Researchers have also used fetal electrocardiographic (FECG) recordings to compare the babies born in utero and newborns. Similarities were found in the sleep patterns both in utero and as a newborn. That being said, don’t expect your little one to be a great sleeper like they were throughout the pregnancy.
Around the ninth week of pregnancy, your baby will start making its first movements. While these movements are probably visible with ultrasound, they will likely not be felt for several more weeks. Although your baby’s first muscle movements are involuntary, the first voluntary muscle movements occur around week 16. After this point, whether they are awake or asleep, your boy will move 50 times or more each hour! They may be flexing and extending their body, moving their head, face, and limbs, or exploring their warm home. By week 37, your baby has developed enough coordination so that he or she can grasp with their fingers.
On average, your baby can kick roughly ten times an hour. However, some babies are more active than others. Activity in the womb is completely normal. The overall level will vary even from one pregnancy to the next. While some mothers might have a relatively inactive baby during their first pregnancy, different factors might cause an extremely active second pregnancy. Realistically, there is no scientific explanation for this beyond that other children will have different activity levels. More or less, this could be attributed to being a part of their personality. If you are a mom of more than one, you might already know that one child can be more active than another.
Along with their ability to feel, see, and hear comes the capacity to learn and remember. For instance, a fetus may be startled by a loud noise but then stop responding once the noise has been repeated several times. Babies are also able to feel and remember their mother’s emotional state. When presented with situations such as their mothers’ emotional upset who watched a scary movie, the baby reacted. When the babies were reexposed to this situation and movie after birth, they recognized their earlier experience in the womb. Be careful what you say around pregnant women!
It may seem implausible that fetuses can listen to speech within the womb, but the sound-processing parts of their brain become active in the last trimester of pregnancy. Sound has shown to carry reasonably well through the mother’s abdomen. If you put your hand over your mouth and speak, that is very similar to the fetus’s situation. Studies have shown that newborns are already familiarized with the sounds of their parent’s native language. Once we learn a sound, and if it is repeated enough, we form a memory of it. This memory is activated when we hear the sound again.
In addition to learning and remembering situations and experiences, fetuses inside the womb become familiar with the sounds of their mother’s voice. Within hours of birth, a baby already prefers its mother’s voice to a stranger’s, suggesting that it must have learned and remembered the voice from its time inside the womb. Newborns have reacted differently to a tale repeatedly read while in the womb compared to a new story. The same soft music that comforts them in utero has also been shown to soothe them again after birth. Many expectant mothers will spend a lot of time speaking to their unborn child.
Babies in the womb are likely reacting to voices and stories’ overall sound, not actual words, based on how the sounds filter through the amniotic fluid rather than through air. The conclusion is that the fetus can listen, learn, and remember at some level. Besides, as with most babies and children, the fetus likes the familiar’s comfort and reassurance. Any new mother will be able to tell you that the sound of her voice delights her newborn’s baby. The fetuses learn all about their mother’s voice during their time in the womb and then prefer it after birth.
The fetal nervous system is one of the very first systems to develop.
Your baby’s brain and spinal cord are the first systems to develop and make significant strides before being aware that you are pregnant. Throughout the trimesters, regions of your baby’s brain are developing. During the first trimester, your baby’s neural plate forms. At the same time, the nervous system begins to develop. Once the neural tube closes, it curves and bulges into three sections around week six or seven. These are commonly referred to as the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain. Just to the rear of the hindbrain sits the part that will turn into your baby’s spinal cord.
Shortly after that, these areas will bubble into five different regions of the brain. That includes the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus. During the second trimester, your baby’s brain is directing steady contractions of the diaphragm and chest muscles. At the tail-end of the second trimester, the baby’s brainstem that controls their heart rate and breathing is almost entirely mature. The third trimester is full of rapid brain development with neurons and wiring. This growth is critical for the cerebral cortex, which controls the thinking, remembering, and feeling parts of the brain. Each day in the womb strengthens your baby’s brain development.
Your baby’s bone growth starts developing right after conception and does not finish growing until adulthood.
Soon after conception, the embryo differentiates three layers of cells that will develop into your baby’s bones. By month two, significant changes are happening with developing a clavicle, parts of a backbone, and the starting growth of arms and legs. During the final weeks of your first trimester, your baby’s bones develop a lot with bendable joints and well-defined fingers and toes. In month four, your body is now delivering calcium to your baby via the placenta to help their bones harden, strengthen, and lengthen. The calcium transfer continues up until birth. The following months, five and six, are active months for bone-building.
During the third trimester in months seven and eight, most of the calcium is transferred, and the baby is busy transforming cartilage to bone. The baby is also developing muscle and building up a layer of protective fat. At around week 36 of pregnancy, the mother-baby calcium transfer peaks. Even though the calcium transfer is peaking, your baby’s bones are still softer than an adult’s. They have to be so that they can fit through the birth canal and allow for growth once the baby is born. The baby’s skull comprises several separate bony plates that can shift and compress as your baby’s head makes its way towards the exit.
The development of the lung is one of the most essential stages in the womb. Fully-developed lungs are one of the critical factors necessary for life outside of the womb. Every day can make a difference in lung development. During the last month, the baby’s lungs do the majority of developing that they need to function outside of the womb. The lungs are unique because they are one of the only systems in the body that stay primarily dormant until birth. Every other structure, such as the cardiac system or the muscular system, is fully up and running even while the baby is still in utero.
A baby’s lung development occurs over five stages throughout the pregnancy. For the lungs, every day of growth in the womb is essential. The first stage occurs after conception, where the lung bud develops from cells and separates into the right and left lungs. During the second stage, the airways begin to form. The third stage involves the body getting ready to make air sacs and small blood vessels. In the fourth stage, the fetus is preparing the lungs for breathing. It begins at 26 weeks and carries on until birth. The fifth and final stage involves air sac, or alveoli, development.
The fetus gains the most weight during the third trimester.
Your baby changes the most rapidly during the third trimester of pregnancy. During the final months, your body is focused on gaining the most weight. While each pregnancy and fetus can vary, typically, a fetus weighs around two pounds at 27 weeks, four pounds by 32 weeks, and grows up to between six and 10 pounds by the time they are full-term. Part of this action can be attributed to the baby’s bone growth and the final developments. You may also experience weight gain due to not only your baby growing but also a larger uterus, placenta, and more amniotic fluid.
All of these factors will add a few extra pounds. That is the primary reason that doctors and midwives stress that women try not to gain too much weight during the first two trimesters of pregnancy. While you certainly do not want to lose weight during the third trimester, it is also crucial that you do not give in to unhealthy food cravings and still be as active as possible. There can be complications attributed to too much weight gain during the third trimester. Some of these complications include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, premature birth, and heavy birth weight.
In the weeks after conception, your baby starts as an embryo made up of three distinct layers, including the endoderm, mesoderm, and ectoderm. Your baby’s epidermis first starts to develop between weeks five and eight of pregnancy. It consists of two layers: basal cells and periderm cells, or the cells’ inner and outer layers. When the baby is around nine or ten weeks, a new intermediate cell layer develops right between the basal and periderm layers. The baby’s hair follicles emerge in the middle cell layer. Over the next few weeks, the baby’s development continues.
By month four, all of the skin layers are developed and close to adult-quality. Up until the very last weeks of pregnancy, your baby has very little body fat, making his or her skin look transparent. Around 32 weeks, as your baby steadily fattens up, their translucent appearance takes a turn for the opaque. Your baby will have a reddish-purple complexion at birth regardless of your or your partner’s skin color. The baby’s face will slowly change to its permanent tone once their circulatory system adjusts to out-of-womb life. You might be surprised to learn that this process can take up to six months for some babies.
The baby can develop hair while they are growing in the womb.
Around week 14 or week 15, very tiny baby hairs begin to poke through the skin at a slight angle, which will set the stage for your baby’s hairline very soon. Throughout pregnancy, your baby’s hair goes through two cycles of shedding and regrowth. A precise pattern starts to emerge with all the follicles perfectly and evenly spaced. Not a single follicle forms after birth. Right around week 22, the baby’s eyelashes and eyebrows are growing and looking pretty good as well. There is no way to predict how much hair a baby will have at birth. Some babies are born with much hair, while others are born without it.
The color and quantity are primarily due to genetics. Hair growth is not limited to the baby’s head. At week 14, your baby will be covered with something called lanugo. It is a downy coating of hair that serves the purpose of keeping your baby warm. However, unless your baby decides to make an early arrival, he or she will most likely not be sporting their fur coat upon birth. As the baby continues to grow and mature, the fat the baby is accumulating will take over the job of keeping them warm. That means that the lanugo sheds around week 30 of pregnancy. It can be crazy to think of all these changes your baby is undergoing without you even knowing.
The baby’s hair color, volume, and texture in the womb are not what you might expect.
Suppose you snapped a photo of your baby while in the womb. You won’t see those blonde curls or short brown hair. In fact, hair is pigment-free and bright white during pregnancy. You might also be surprised to learn that all babies, regardless of their ethnicity, sport the same thin, silky, and often lightly-colored hair at birth. That is referred to as vellus. However, don’t get too attached to the first strands you see. From weeks eight to twelve, your newborn will go through one more phase of hair development. This last phase results in one final shedding with intermediate hair growing in between months three and seven.
Did you know that you might have to wait until your baby is two years old for the hair she will have as a grownup to grow? However, if you wonder whether your baby will have a lot or a little hair is mostly genetics. Another theory that many people talk about is whether you have a significant amount of heartburn during pregnancy. The idea is that if you do, there is a slightly better chance that your baby will have a good head of hair. You might be shocked to learn that researchers have confirmed this theory. There is likely a biological mechanism involving pregnancy hormones that both relax the esophageal sphincter and regulate fetal hair growth.
Your baby begins to develop on a sensory level from the moment of conception.
By week 20, the baby’s auditory system is entirely intact. However, it will take a few weeks longer before the nerves that conduct sound are functional. Around week 23, your baby can respond to loud noises and might even jerk or hiccup after hearing a loud sound. Within the womb, the overwhelming sounds are the background sounds of your body. Your baby will listen to the gushes of amniotic fluid and blood flowing in the veins. Along with this, they will become familiar with your heartbeat and the sounds of your digestion. These background noises contribute to the constant white noise he or she hears.
The consistent sound of the heartbeat can quickly become a soothing sound to your baby. Some mothers have even played the constant sound of the heartbeat to help their babies fall asleep easier. Even though the outside world’s sounds are subdued within the womb, there are still many sounds and voices the baby will be able to recognize. It might go without saying that the baby will recognize your voice. You likely spoke frequently or even sang lullabies to your new baby throughout your pregnancy. Dad’s voice is going to be the second most familiar sound to your baby. It is comforting to know that your baby will recognize both voices immediately after birth and help the bonding experience.
Amniotic fluid has a large variety of functions and responsibilities to the baby.
When the baby is within the womb, it is tucked within the amniotic sac. The amniotic sac is a bag that is formed of two membranes, the amnion, and the chorion. The baby grows and matures inside this sac that is surrounded by amniotic fluid. Initially, the fluid is composed of water that the mother produces. However, about halfway through the pregnancy, the fluid is almost entirely replaced by fetal urine. There are many purposes for the amniotic fluid. The most obvious is that the fluid protects the baby by cushioning them from outside pressures. The amniotic fluid also helps to insulate the baby and regulate their temperature.
The amniotic fluid contains antibodies that help prevent infections. It is also critically important for the fetus’s development. For instance, by breathing and swallowing the amniotic fluid, the baby practices using these systems’ muscles as they grow. Additionally, as the baby floats inside the amniotic sac, it has the freedom to move about. That provides muscles and bones the opportunity to develop properly. Amniotic fluid also helps prevent parts of the body such as the fingers and toes from growing together. If amniotic fluid levels are too low, the webbing can occur. It also helps support the umbilical cord and prevent it from being compressed. Who knew amniotic fluid had many vital jobs?
While babies are constantly re-circulating their urine in the womb, they handle their poop differently.
There are bits and pieces of pregnancy and fetal growth that you might not have thought about. One of those might be how the baby relieves itself. As we have already mentioned, by week 20, the baby is actively re-circulating their urine in the amniotic fluid. However, what does the baby do with their poop? You might be shocked to learn that most babies hold their poop until birth. The baby’s first stool is referred to as meconium. It comprises several elements, including all the skin, hair, bile, proteins, and white blood cells that float in the amniotic fluid. That makes sense since the baby is drinking it for 20 to 25 weeks.
The meconium starts to form after the baby begins to open the mouth and swallows the amniotic fluid inside the womb. That tends to occur around week 11. However, meconium production in the fetus starts to accelerate by week 19 or 20 as the fetus continues to mature. It typically comes out after birth as a greenish-black, tarry, and odorless mess. The majority of babies will hold their poop until delivery, but there are some, approximately 13 percent, that do poop in the womb. However, too much meconium in the amniotic fluid can block a baby’s airways before birth leading to fetal distress because of an oxygen-deprived state.
Babies can taste and smell the food mom eats while in the womb.
Your baby will be able to taste the food that you choose to eat. The flavor molecules from food that you ingest will pass from your blood through the placenta and into the baby’s amniotic fluid. With the baby’s taste buds developing around eleven weeks, the baby will be able to taste whatever you are eating from that point on. As the baby and their taste buds continue to develop, their sense of taste becomes stronger around weeks 28 and 29, when the taste buds are fully mature. Since babies are also likely to snort up amniotic fluid, it is believed that they can smell the food in addition to tasting it.
The flavor molecules in the food you devour travel to the baby. Many studies have shown that food preferences and aversions start in the womb in this way. For instance, it has been said that if you avoid certain foods, your baby will also be more likely to reject those flavors after birth. This kind of relationship continues after birth, too, since flavor molecules also regularly show up in breast milk. Some people say that their children are picky eaters, but they might be surprised to learn at what point it all started. If you try to introduce your baby to more foods within the womb, they might be more open to it as they grow up.
The baby’s breathing goes through a transition during delivery.
Around the 40th week, the baby’s body is getting ready to transition into the world. During labor, the mother’s uterus will contract and retract. The contractions squeeze the baby and move him or her into position to exit the birth canal. The contractions also work to push the amniotic fluid out of the baby’s lungs. That is done to prepare them to breathe—the seal between the baby and the outside breaks when the mother’s water breaks. As a result, the baby might get exposed to oxygen during the birth process.
However, as long as the baby is still connected to its mother through the placenta via the umbilical cord, it does not need to breathe yet. Within a few moments after birth, the baby will take a sharp inhale and breathe for the first time on their own. This inflation of the lungs brings oxygen into the baby’s bloodstream without the mother’s help for the first time. The moments after birth until the baby takes their first breath on their own can be stressful, but try not to stress too much. Just as your body has prepared and knows what to do, their tiny little bodies do too.
Too much amniotic fluid in the womb can be dangerous.
As we have mentioned, amniotic fluid has many critical responsibilities for the baby’s growth and development. When there is too much amniotic fluid in the womb, it is called polyhydramnios. Several fetal disorders can lead to polyhydramnios. These can include gastrointestinal disorders, brain or nervous system disorders, achondroplasia, or fetal heart rate problems. Other causes might include infections, fetal lung abnormalities, or mismatched blood between the mother and child. Maternal diabetes that is not managed correctly can also increase the risk of too much amniotic fluid in the womb. An abundance of fluid can also be produced during multiple pregnancies when the mother carries more than one fetus.
There are a few signs that the mother can watch for to identify polyhydramnios. Maternal symptoms might include abdominal pain and difficulty breathing. That can be due to the enlargement of the uterus. Mild cases of polyhydramnios tend to resolve themselves without treatment. On the other hand, more severe cases might require that fluid be reduced with either amniocentesis or with medication. It is important not to let polyhydramnios go untreated, in any case. You might experience complications that include preterm labor, premature rupture of membrane, placental abruption, or even stillbirth. Always consult with your doctor. They might recommend testing for maternal diabetes in addition to frequent ultrasounds to monitor the levels of amniotic fluid.
What you eat throughout your pregnancy can impact your baby’s development.
It goes without saying that what you consume throughout your pregnancy can impact your baby’s development and health. Most doctors encourage expectant mothers to stay active and eat healthily. There are many reasons why you should be aware of what you are putting into your body and understanding how they truly impact your baby’s health. Because your baby’s nervous system starts developing right away, it is vital to consume the proper nutrients and vitamins right out of the gate. You have likely heard of folate or folic acid. Some people even suggest taking this when you think you might want to get pregnant. As always, be sure to consult with your doctor.
Folic acid is an essential nutrient for fetal cell growth, tissue development, and DNA. Ensuring you are consuming enough before and early into pregnancy reduces a baby’s chance of serious neural tube defects by 70 percent. Be sure to take your prenatal vitamin and make sure to eat plenty of folate-rich foods such as leafy greens and whole grains. Another essential nutrient for your baby’s brain and eye development is omega-3 fatty acids. Getting enough of this nutrient, especially during the third trimester, is vital. That is the time when the baby’s brain is developing the fastest. The good news is that there are many safe, fatty, cold-water fish such as salmon, trout, and cod that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
There are many nutrients that you should ensure you are consuming during pregnancy. Many foods should be avoided.
One of the biggest fears of premature birth is that the baby’s lungs won’t be fully mature. As a result of undeveloped lungs, pneumonia and a condition called respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can occur. One way to try to avoid a premature birth is to pay meticulous attention to your diet and lifestyle choices throughout your pregnancy. Some of the most common foods that pregnant women are advised to avoid include raw meat, sushi, deli meats, and uncooked eggs. These particular foods contain harmful chemical agents or bacteria that should not be passed on to a baby during their critical times of development.
In addition to avoiding certain foods, pregnant women are also commonly advised to limit their caffeine intake. It should again go without saying, but they should also avoid any alcoholic beverages. Expectant mothers should be aware of the chemicals in their cosmetic and skin products and avoid those that contain chemicals such as salicylic acid. If you have any questions or what products you should or should not or what foods you should limit or avoid altogether, talk to your doctor. They will be able to best guide you based on your situation and health history. Always remember that no two pregnancies are exactly alike, and you might have a very different experience than close friends or family.
Low levels of amniotic fluid are referred to as oligohydramnios.
Slightly more common than polyhydramnios, oligohydramnios refers to low amniotic fluid levels. This condition might occur in cases of leaking fluid from a tear in the amniotic membranes. It can also happen in mothers that have a history of a variety of medical conditions. For instance, if the mother has a history of preeclampsia, chronic high blood pressure, or prior growth-restricted pregnancies. If you have experienced any of these initial medical conditions, your doctor might choose to monitor you throughout your pregnancy more closely. Oligohydramnios can occur during any trimester, but there is a more concerning risk during the first six months of pregnancy. There is a higher risk of congenital disabilities, loss of the pregnancy, or preterm birth during this time.
In the same way that too much amniotic fluid can cause risks, so can low fluid levels. These risks include slow fetal growth, labor complications, and the need for a Cesarean delivery. Your doctor might choose to closely monitor the rest of the pregnancy with a variety of methods. They might decide to use biophysical profiling; an ultrasound scan can detect the baby’s movements, muscle tone, breathing, and amniotic fluid levels. They might also choose doppler studies that use sound waves to check blood flow in the baby. If severe, your doctor might require that labor be induced to protect yourself and the baby.