Prenatal period/Conception

    Conception/ Prenatal Period

Prenatal period: It is the time when sperms travels up through the vagina, into the uterus, and fertilizes an egg found in the fallopian tube. This takes several days, and during this time the ovum divides frequently. Ten to fourteen days after fertilization, it becomes implanted in the wall of the uterus. For the next six weeks it is known as an embryo and develops rapidly. By the third week the embryo is about one-fifth of an inch (one- half centimeter) long and the region of the head is clearly visible. By the eight week the embryo is too, all major internal organs have begun to form; and some, such as the sex glands, to appear during the eighth or ninth week after fertilization.

During the next seventh months the developing child- now called a fetus- shows an increasingly human form. Different parts of the body grow at different rates during this period. At first, the head grows rapidly compared to the trunk and leg; later, the lower parts of the body grow more rapidly. The external genitals take shape, so the sex of the fetus is recognizable by the twelfth week. Fingernails and toenails form, hair follicles appear, and eyelids that open and close emerge. By the end of the twelfth week the fetus is 3 inches long and weighs about 21 grams. By the twelfth week it is almost 10 inches (25 cm) long and weighs 8 or 9 ounces. By the twenty-fourth week all the neurons that will be present in the brain by the end of the twenty-fourth week all the neurons that will and are sensitive to light by the end of the twenty- fourth to twenty-sixth week.

During the last three months of pregnancy, the fetus gains about eight ounces each week. By the seventh and eighth months, it appears to be virtually fully formed. However, if born prematurely, it may still experience difficulties in breathing. At birth, babies weigh more than 7 pounds on average and are about 20 inches.

Prenatal Influences on Development:

Under ideal conditions, development during the prenatal period occurs in an orderly fashion, and the newborn child is well equipped at birth to survive outside its mother’s body. Unfortunately, however, conditions are not always ideal. We’ll consider some of the most important teratogens here, but it’s important to note that many others exist as well.

1. Infectious agents: The blood supply of the fetus and that of its mother come into close proximity in the placenta, a structure within the uterus that protects and nourishes the growing child. As a result, disease-producing organisms present in the mother’s blood can some-times infect the fetus. Diseases that exert only relatively minor effects on the mother can be very serious for the fetus.

2. Prescription and over-the –counter drugs: The use of the drugs by the mother can also have important effects on the fetus. Excessive use of aspirin, a drug most people take without hesitation, can result in harm to the fetus’s circulatory system.

3. Cocaine: While many illegal drugs taken by mothers during pregnancy can harm the developing fetus, there has been an alarming increase in the number of babies exposed to cocaine. Even if such babies are not born addicted to the drug, infants suffer many harmful effects from exposure to cocaine during the prenatal period: premature birth, brain lesions, impaired sensory functioning, and increased irritability and heart deformities among fetus.

4. Alcohol: If pregnant women consume large quantities of alcohol- and especially if they engage in binge drinking-their children may be born with a disorder known as the fetal alcohol syndrome. This disorder includes a smaller than normal head size, deformities of the face, irritability, hyperactivity, retarded motor and mental development, heart defects, limb and joint abnormalities, feeding problems, and short attention spans.

5. Smoking: From the point of view of fetal development, this is unfortunate, for smoking by the pregnant women is related to many harmful effects on the fetus and newborn child. These include decreased birth weight and size and increased risk for miscarriage and stillbirth. Maternal smoking may also interfere with cognitive development in early childhood. Other findings state that even if the mother is non-smoker, but she is surviving in the smoking environment then also child gets affected.  

Thus, during prenatal period mother should carefully consider the potential risk before engaging in actions that may put their unborn children at risk. And the harmful effects of teratogens don’t end when babies are born; for information on how these factors can influence newborns. 

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