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How Your Baby Develops Over Nine Months

During the nine months of pregnancy, there’s a whole lot going on. In this time, your baby goes from a fertilized egg to a blastocyst, then from an embryo to a fetus, and finally to the baby you’ll eventually hold in your arms.

During the first trimester, you conceive. The fertilized egg grows into a blastocyst and begins to burrow into your uterine lining. The cells of the blastocyst begin to develop into different groups, each one with a different mission. Some, for example, will begin to form the placenta, while others will form the various parts of your baby. Within 21 days, a rudimentary heart will begin beating and circulating blood, while the umbilical cord appears about 4 weeks after conception. And although it’s only the size of a grain of rice, your baby has small buds that will become arms and legs, a brain, a primitive spinal column, and rudimentary elements of future organs, from the mouth and stomach to the liver, thyroid, gallbladder and more.

Rapid development continues throughout the first trimester. Your baby will grow from the size of a grain of rice to about 5 inches long, developing from an embryo into a fetus. From an indistinct shape, the baby will begin to look like a human being in miniature. By this point, your baby will have arms, legs, fingers, toes and even nails. Your baby is also beginning to grow hair and tiny tooth buds are appearing in baby's gums. Thousands of new nerve cells are being created every minute and the baby is beginning to make his own red blood cells in his spleen, liver, and bone marrow. All of your baby's organs are formed by the end of the first trimester; they’ll continue to grow and develop during the rest of your pregnancy. If you’re able to see the baby's genital area via ultrasound, you should be able to tell if the baby is a boy or a girl. And to think – you may not even be showing yet!

In the next month, your baby will quadruple his weight and double in length. Fingerprints develop and the baby begins to breathe in amniotic fluid, which helps his lungs grow and develop. At around 20 weeks, your baby's skin begins to develop a coating known as the vernix which helps protect his skin from the amniotic fluid. You’re probably beginning to feel your baby move at this stage, and as the structures of the middle ear continue their development, the baby can begin to hear you. As the second trimester comes to a close, your baby will be about 12 inches long and weigh between 1.25 and 1.5 pounds.

As you enter the third trimester, the baby begins to open his eyes. His senses of hearing, smelling and tasting are well developed, and he will respond to both sound and touch. By 34 weeks, he’ll blink his eyes in response to bright light. Until now, your baby has probably been in a bottom down or breech position, but around 34 weeks, most babies change to a head down position which they’ll keep until birth. The most significant development during this time is the secretion of surfactant in the baby's lungs; this is essential for breathing outside the womb.

From this point forward, your baby will gain about one-half pound each week and you’ll gain about one pound each week. By 38 weeks, your baby will weigh between 6 and 7.5 pounds and be between 18 to 20 inches long. Your baby will also have waking and sleeping patterns, similar to those of a newborn. By this time, your baby's lung will have enough surfactant to enable him to breathe on his own once he’s born. Your baby will spend these last few weeks of pregnancy practicing for life outside the womb – breathing, sucking, swallowing, moving, grasping and sleeping in preparation for his new life.

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