Prenatal Development Lecture

Hello everyone Welcome to this weeks lecture on prenatal development

Last week you watched the Miracle of Life, which thoroughly covers conception and fetal development through the prenatal period We are going to review some of that information as well as some surrounding concepts To start with, something you may or may not have thought about before is the history and progression behind motivations for parenting Many factors may be taken into consideration when deciding to have children or not One big piece is that more than ever it is an individual choice! There isn’t as much of a social expectation

For example, in the past a societal expectation was to have children because that’s what everybody did, or having more than one so that they had siblings and weren’t spoiled, having children early in life rather than later We now have much more effective birth control methods such as Long Acting Reversible Contraceptives (LARCs), which supports family planning and there is much less social criticism for having children later in life Over time the motivation to have children has moved from one that emphasizes societal expectation to one that focuses on individual fulfillment Although having children continues to be the norm, in 2013 about 30% of newborn babies were from unintended pregnancies Most of these being form low income families with less educated mothers and included circumstances such as delayed prenatal care, and premature birth

Opportunities to explore childbearing motivations through school, health classes, and family planning, may not decrease the number of unintended pregnancies but could potentially lead to more informed meaningful choices around having children If you are a parent ask yourself- What are the benefits and disadvantages of parenthood? Benefits could be things such as giving receiving love and affection, personal fulfillment, create one’s own family, nurturing a new little person, being seen as a responsible member of the community, carrying on family name and lineage, strengthening bond with partner Disadvantages could be things such as constant worries for health and safety, role overload –balancing work and parenting, risks such as crime, war, pollution, finances, loss of privacy Let’s jump right into prenatal development and review some of the associated terms The first phase of prenatal development is the Germinal Period This is the time of fertilization and formation of the zygote, which essentially is a fertilized female egg

Once the one-celled zygote is formed the cells begin to duplicate and create a blastocyst, which is a hollow fluid filled ball The blastocyst then burrows through the uterine lining During the Germinal period the placenta and umbilical chord begin to form Phase 2 covers week 2 through 8 and is the Embryo phase in which the foundation of the body structures are laid down Heart, muscles, ribs, backbone, and digestive track begin to develop

The nervous system is forming the neural tube which swells to form the brain, other organs are beginning to form as well and the embryo responds to touch and can move Phase 3 is the phase of the Fetus and is the final phase lasting from 9 weeks through the end of pregnancy As expected there is a dramatic increase in body size, development of physical structures come to completion, and by the end of the 2nd trimester, which is 24 weeks, most of the brain’s neurons are in place and the fetus reacts to sound The 3rd trimester, which is also part of the Fetus phase, covers weeks 25-birth During this time the fetus reaches age of viability and has a good chance of survival if born

The brain is continuing to develop rapidly enabling sensory and behavior capacities to expand The fetus becomes able to distinguish different voices, language and musical sound The lungs gradually mature and the fetus increases in size and fills the uterus Now that we have gone over the phases of prenatal development lets talk about prenatal environmental influences Teratogens are environmental agents that cause damage during the prenatal period

The impact on development varies depending on the amount and length of exposure Also variables such as heredity and age of embryo or fetus can have influence on the impact Some examples of teratogens are prescription and non-prescription drugs People are more likely to take heed with prescription drugs however non prescription drugs such as aspirin and Tylenol even caffeine can have effects on development Other teratogens are illegal drugs also tobacco which can lead to low birth weight and increase the likelihood of things such as miscarriage, prematurity, cleft lip and palate, as well as asthma and cancer later in childhood, and alcohol which can result in developmental disorders such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, as well as Alcohol-related neurodevelopment Disorder

Environmental pollutants and infectious disease are additional teratogens that can impact development during pregnancy Chemicals in our environment can impair prenatal development and also increase the chances of diseases and health problems later in life Certain diseases can cause miscarriage and birth defects Viral diseases such as AIDS, chickenpox, and rubella, bacterial diseases such as Chlamydia and tuberculosis, and parasitic diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis can all lead to miscarriage, physical malformations, intellectual disability, and low birth weight and prematurity This graph, although not super clear on the slide, shows the sensitive periods in prenatal development

Each organ of the body has a sensitive period, which is a time where development may be impacted The blue bars indicate highly sensitive periods and green bars indicate somewhat less sensitive periods You can see that in the first 5 weeks of pregnancy the central nervous system, heart, upper limbs, lower limbs, ears, and eyes all enter into and have a sensitive period From about week 6 to week 9 the ears, eyes, teeth, palate and external genitals go through a sensitive period As the embryo and fetus develops the sensitive periods decline but sill many areas are in a less sensitive period, which means damage can still occur

In addition to avoiding teratogens and understanding sensitive periods, there are maternal factors that can support the healthy development of an embryo and fetus Regular exercise, good nutrition, emotional well being, plenty of rest, vaccinations and prenatal care are all beneficial components of a healthy pregnancy For example, moderate exercise in healthy women can lead to improved fetal cardiovascular functioning and higher birth weight Exercise can also reduce the likelihood of other complications like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure Good nutrition is also an important factor in supporting the health of the mother and baby whereas prenatal malnutrition can have similar effects as teratogens such as miscarriages, low birth weight, and in extreme cases physical defects

Prenatal care is another important component The earlier the better in terms of outcomes Although in the US most pregnancies are free of complications, things can arise that need medical attention Statistics show that mothers who enter into prenatal care later in the pregnancy are more likely to experience complications A huge part of pregnancy is preparing for parenthood

While the fetus is developing so can the relationship between parent and baby Seeing the baby through ultrasound and feeling the baby move can help parents connect and make the idea of having a baby a reality Building this bond while in utero helps support the beginning of a healthy attachment Expectant parents can reflect on and discuss how they were parented Identifying models of effective parenting is beneficial

Someone who has had healthy experiences with how they were parented can lead to higher self esteem and can help to construct a positive image of themselves as parents On the other hand if the experience with their parent was negative it can be difficult to establish a positive image of themselves as parents Understanding what is available for support such as counseling and community resources is helpful Reflecting on one’s past experiences with the way they were parented, acknowledging those experiences, as well as understanding one’s own values and desired parenting styles, can help in leading to healthy relationships with their children and family Lastly, the parental relationship is so important

Having a cohesive and supportive relationship during pregnancy can reduce anxiety and stress, factors that can affect prenatal development, and also set a solid foundation of partnership for when the baby arrives


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