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Let Me Introduce Myself

Let Me Introduce Myself I'm Talking from the Womb

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Hi, I'm an unborn child. I don't have a name yet, my mommy and daddy are still deciding. I have some news flashes for you. Prenatal development unfolds in a fixed sequence. Each organ and organ system in the fetus' body has periods during which certain developments must occur. Fingers and toes, for example, are formed from 6 to 8 weeks of pregnancy. The fingers and toes cannot develop or "self-correct" later on in pregnancy. These periods of rapid growth and differentiation are critical periods. In human beings, most of the critical periods for organ development occur within the first 12 weeks, that is, the first trimester, of pregnancy. So, the developing embryo is most susceptible to toxins and trauma.

The second and third trimesters are basically periods of refinement and growth. Especially during the third trimester, the fetus shows dramatic gains in weight and height. At the end of the first trimester, the fetus is 3-4 inches long and weighs about .5 ounces. By the end of the second trimester, he or she is 8-10 inches long and weighs about 1.5 pounds. When the baby is born at the end of the third trimester, the baby is about 20 inches long and weighs an average of 7 pounds. Today, birth weights are either considerably above or below the 7 pound average.

At 3 Months In Utero

The thumb can now be opposed to the forefinger (a characteristic of all the primates). Fetuses of this age begin to show individual variations, probably based on behavioral patterns inherited from the parents. By the end of the twelfth week, the fetus had developed all organ systems and is virtually a functioning organism. The fetal organs become more and more like what they will be in the newborn infant.

At 4 Months In Utero

The fingerprints, unique to the individual, are formed. The fetus responds to touch and spontaneously stretches and exercises both arms and legs.

At 5 Months In Utero

The fetus measures 8 inches crown-rump length. The fetus exhibits a firm hand grip, good muscular strength, coordination and reflex action, and kicks, moves, turns in the womb, hiccups, develops patterns of sleep and wakefulness, and reacts in an individual way to loud noise, music or jarring or tapping the abdomen.

At 7 Months In Utero

The fetus measures 12 inches crown-rump length. Eyes are sensitive to light and dark. The fetus (now called a premature baby if born) is rapidly gaining weight and length. What about my brain in utero? The cerebral cortex, believed to be where the higher-order human functions such as language and problem solving originate from growing at a predictable rate. The cortex begins to take form by 6 weeks' gestational age. At this time, the division between the cerebral hemispheres is clearly seen. The two hemispheres are connected by a large column of bundled nerve fibers, the corpus callosum, the cortex takes on an adult shape and structure by the end of the fifth fetal month.

At the end of 6 months of mom's pregnancy, the fetal brain is quite similar to the adult brain. At birth, the brain will be closer to adult size than any other organ except the eye. The newborn's brain is approximately 25% of its adult weight. By age 10, the brain will have attained 95% of its adult weight. Compare this to overall body weight. At birth the child's weight is roughly 5% of adult weight, and by age 10 roughly 50% of adult body weight has been achieved (Timeras, 1972). No wonder baby's heads appear disproportionately large!

Still, the brain is far from completely developed at birth. Interconnections among the nerve cells, for example, must still be made (Parmelee & Sigman, 1983). In addition, the myelin sheath, which enables the nerves to carry messages more quickly and efficiently, must still be formed around most nerve cells (Timeras, 1972). In fact, central nervous system development may not be complete until early adulthood.

Because brain functioning is not completely "wired in" at birth, infants and young children can make better recoveries from brain injury than can adults. For example, when an adult's brain is injured, any skills that were "housed" in the injured area of the brain must be relearned and "rewired." Old habits often interfere with such relearning. In the young children, the brain is much more flexible.

There are fewer "old wirings" to interfere with "relearning." We say that the brain of the young child has greater plasticity than the brain of the adult. Given these structural differences, it is not surprising to find that the brain of the newborn does not function exactly like and adult's.

Development of fetal motor and sensory areas occurs "top to bottom." Development begins in the head and proceeds downward through the trunk and arms and finally into the legs. So, in the primary motor and sensory areas, the nerve cells controlling the head area (for example, the tongue and the lips) develop first, followed by the trunk and finally the legs. In fact, the leg areas are not completely developed until at least 2 years postnatally. This sequence is reflected in behavioral functioning. The infant's mouth is functional at birth; neck muscles become operative at 8-10 weeks, enabling the baby to hold his head up steadily; reaching and grasping appear at 3-4 months; and walking begins at 12-14 months.

I want all of you readers to know that, the timing of my prenatal development is rigidly fixed. Knowing this will help you understand why the timing is a toxin or trauma determines its effects on the developing embryo and fetus. For example, my mom contracts rubella (German measles) during the first trimester of pregnancy, the results can be devastating. Depending upon the precise timing of the disease, I may be born blind, deaf, mentally retarded, or with any number of other birth defects because the organ systems are developing at this time and the virus interferes with their development. If my mom contacts rubella during her last trimester, the results will be much less marked, perhaps nonexistent, because the organ systems are basically developed and so are much less susceptible to severe damage.

I also want all you readers to know about fetal alcohol disease. For my good health, moms and dads should not drink, either before I am conceived or while I am in the womb. These are all serious symptoms. I don't want any!!

  1. Prenatal and postnatal growth deficiencies. These include "small or date" babies who weigh less than expected given their gestational age and "failure to thrive" babies who for no known medical reason fail to grow at normal rate.
  2. Microcephaly (an undersized head, resulting in mental retardation).
  3. Fine motor dysfunction.
  4. Facial abnormalities, especially cleft palate and epicanthic folds (skin around the inner eye that gives the eye a slanted appearance).
  5. Often mentally retarded, especially in cases where the features of FAS are clearest; sometimes hyperactive.
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