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HUMAN FETAL DEVELOPMENT

At the beginning of the second week, the embryo has developed extensive membranes
that lie in close contact with the mother s tissues. The delicate projections of the chorion have
penetrated the mothers tissues in all directions as they take nutrients and oxygen from her
blood and deposit their own metabolic wastes for her system to carry away. Well into the
third week the chorionic membrane has continued to penetrate the mothers endometrium.
The chorion, shown radiating outward, carries blood vessels that lie closely intertwined with
those of the mother, but the two do not join. The balloonlike structure is the yolk sac. The
human embryo need carry only enough food to last through its first few weeks since food will
later be derived from the mothes blood. The embryo at the fourth week. It lies protected in
its amniotic sac. The dark eye is prominent and the enormous brain lies tucked against the
embryonic heart. The embryo by this time has already developed primordial cells that will
form its own gametes. By now the tubular heart has begin its Erst timorous beats.

The human embryo is here shown at 42 days with the surrounding membranes
removed. It is about half an inch (or sixteen millimeters) long. This is a dorsal view showing
the enormous head (which helps direct the growth of the rest of the body) and the spinal cord
extending to the rump. Notice the paddlelike appendages. Fingers and toes are already
apparent as the tissue between them dies as a result of a mysterious chromosomal timing
mechanism. Also at this time the extensive vascular system is clearly visible leading from the
projections of the embryonic chorion to the embryo itself. The organ below the eye is the
now looped heart. The embryo is still so water-laden that its tissues are virtually transparent.

At six weeks, with the amnion removed, the fingers are apparent and the bulbous
brain still dominates the embryo. Notice the tail" tucked under the abdomen. (It is destined
to disappear.) The tiny pit above the arm will become the ear. At about this time, the embryo
is extremely vulnerable to all sorts of chemical agents. An increasing number of drugs have
been found to produce congenital abnormalities, for example, in the growth of limbs. Even X
rays, at this time, may endanger the development of the embryo. Certain diseases are also
particularly dangerous. For example, if a mother contracts German measles during the fourth
to twelfth week of her pregnancy, the result may be deformities in the offspring s eyes, heart,
and brain.
At about seven weeks the embryo, afloat in its amniotic fluid, is clearly anchored to
its placenta by the twisted umbilicus through which great blood vessels pass. The abdomen is
swollen due to the rapid growth of the liver, the main blood- forming organ at this time.

The eight-week embryo is shown here in front view. The organs are now more or less
complete after a rapid period of growth and development. From here on, development will
primarily consist of refinements of existing structures. The skeletal system is among the last
to form, but bones are now evident in the amrs and legs.

At nine weeks lids have begin to grow down over the eyes, and the outer car begins
to form. Because the plates of the skull have not fused, the head is rather flexible. During this
third month, the fetus may begin to move, wave its arms and legs, and may even suck its
thumb. It is now beginning to fill its amniotic space and will assume the typical upside-down
fetal posture.

At ten weeks the skeleton is well along in its development. The long bones begin
developing independently, growing from areas near their ends. They Will join, forming joints,
later. in fact, the joints may not be firmly abutted by the time the baby is born. The head is
still disproportionately large and Will remain so, to a decreasing degree, through childhood.
Notice the called umbilicus lying near the cuboid ankle bones showing as dark spots. The
wrist bones have not yet begin to form and the jaw structure is weak indeed.

At 14 weeks the fetus is fist-sized. Ribs and blood vessels are visible through the
translucent skin. The vigorous movements of the fetus can now be felt by the mother. The
delicate skin is actually covered with a cheesy protective coating. Refinements such as
fingerprints and fingernails have not yet developed. By the end of five months (below) the
fetus is covered with fine, downy hair and its head may have already started to grow its own
crop. It has already started the lifetime process of discarding old cells and replacing them
with new ones. The heart is beating now at a rate of 120 to 160 times per minute.

The Third Trimester

During the third trimester, the fetus grows until it fills its available space and is no
longer Heating free in its amniotic pool, and, even in the greatly enlarged uterus, its
movement is restricted. In these last three months, the mother s abdomen becomes greatly
distended and heavy, and her posture and gait may be noticeably altered in response to the
shift in her cent of gravity. (However, occasionally a markedly overweight woman may go
through much of this stage without realizing she is pregnant at all.) The mass of tissue and
amniotic fluid that accompanies the fetus ordinarily weighs about twice as much as the fetus
itself. Toward the end of period, milk begins to form in the woman s mammary glands, which
in the previous trimester may have undergone a sudden surge of growth.

At this time, the mother is at a great physical disadvantage in several ways. About 85
percent of the calcium she eats goes to the fetal skeleton, and about the same percentage of
her iron intake goes to the fetal blood cells. Much of the protein she eats goes to the brain and
other nerve tissues of the fetus. Some interesting questions arise here. If a woman is unable to
afford expensive protein rich foods during the third trimester, can it affect the brain
development and intelligence of her offspring? On the average, poorer people in this country
show lower I.Q. scores. Are they poor because their intelligence is low, or is intelligence low
because they are Poor? Is there a self-perpetuating nature about either of these alternatives?
During the third trimester, the fetus grows quite large. It requires more food each day, and it
produces more poisonous wastes for the mothes body to carry away. Her heart must work
harder to provide food and oxygen for two bodies. She must breathe, now, for two individuals,
Her blood pressure and heart rate rise. The fetus and the tissues maintaining it form a large
mass that crowds her internal organs. In fact, the fetus pressing against her diaphragm may
make breathing difficult for her in these months. Several weeks before delivery, however, the
fetus will change its position, dropping lower in the pelvis (a process called lightening), and it
thus relieves the pressure against the mother s lungs. The finishing of the fetus proceeds
rapidly in the last three months. Such changes are reflected in the survival rate of babies
delivered by cesarean section (an incision through the mothers abdomen). In the seventh
month, only IO percent survive; in the eighth month, 70 percent; and in the ninth month, 95
percent survive. Interestingly, there is a change in the relationship of the fetus and mother the
last trimester. In the first trimester, measles and certain other infectious diseases would have
affected the embryo. However, during the third trimester, the mother s antibodies confer an
immunity to the fetus, a protection that may last through the first weeks of infancy. About
255 to 265 days after conception, the life-sustaining placenta begins to break down. Parts of it
begin to shrink and change and the capillaries begin to disintegrate. The fetal environment
becomes rather inhospitable and premature births at this time are not unusual. At about this
time, the fetus slows its growth and changes its position so that its head is directed toward the
bottom of the uterus. Its internal organs undergo some final changes that will soon enable it
to survive in an entirely different kind of world. So far, its home has been warm, sustaining,
protected, and confining. It is not likely to encounter anything quite so secure again.

RESUME

At the beginning of the second week, the embryo has developed extensive membranes
that lie in close contact with the mother s tissues. . Well into the third week the chorionic
membrane has continued to penetrate the mothers endometrium. The embryo at the fourth
week. It lies protected in its amniotic sac. The dark eye is prominent and the enormous brain
lies tucked against the embryonic heart. The human embryo is here shown at 42 days with the
surrounding membranes removed. It is about half an inch (or sixteen millimeters) long. This
is a dorsal view showing the enormous head (which helps direct the growth of the rest of the
body) and the spinal cord extending to the rump. At six weeks, with the amnion removed, the
fingers are apparent and the bulbous brain still dominates the embryo. At about seven weeks
the embryo, afloat in its amniotic fluid, is clearly anchored to its placenta by the twisted
umbilicus through which great blood vessels pass. The abdomen is swollen due to the rapid
growth of the liver, the main blood- forming organ at this time. The eight-week embryo is
shown here in front view. The organs are now more or less complete after a rapid period of
growth and development. At nine weeks lids have begin to grow down over the eyes, and the
outer car begins to form. At ten weeks the skeleton is well along in its development. The long
bones begin developing independently, growing from areas near their ends. At 14 weeks the
fetus is fist-sized. Ribs and blood vessels are visible through the translucent skin. During the
third trimester, the fetus grows until it fills its available space and is no longer Heating free in
its amniotic pool, and, even in the greatly enlarged uterus, its movement is restricted. In these
last three months, the mother s abdomen becomes greatly distended and heavy, and her
posture and gait may be noticeably altered in response to the shift in her cent of gravity.

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